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Foto: Marc Kolle (Folia-archief).

International support committee established for UvA-lecturer Laurens Buijs

Dirk Wolthekker,
4 april 2023 - 10:00

A group of fifteen Dutch, British, and Flemish scholars has formed a support committee for the lecturer in interdisciplinary social science (ISS) Laurens Buijs. It includes UvA professors, among others  Professor Emeritus of Political Theory Meindert Fennema and Professor of Complex Adaptive Systems Peter Sloot.

A support committee has joined several scholars and professors from Flanders and England in addition to Fennema and Sloot. The name of the former UvA professor (and now emeritus) of intercultural communication David Pinto is also on the list. Other Dutch scholars on the list include Andreas Kinneging and Paul Cliteur (both UL) and Erik Jurgens (VU/UM). The latter two, by the way, also have emeritus status.


The committee writes in a message to Folia that it has recently become “increasingly difficult if not impossible to discuss matters of public interest in an academic context, while respecting each other's point of view.” According to the committee, a minority “of aggressive and activist (woke) students are demanding in a public statement the dismissal of professors who raise issues that they do not want to hear because it deviates from their ideological convictions.”


The Buijs case

The committee sees the case surrounding UvA-lecturer Laurens Buijs in this regard as “typical” for the present situation at the UvA. Buijs deals with the philosophy of science and gender theory and came under fire among a group of Dutch scientists in recent months after he published an article on the Folia website taking a stand against what he sees as the woke culture in social sciences, in particular the ISS program. In the article, Buijs took a position that could be called “gender critical,”according to the support committee. A storm of criticism broke out, after which the UvA established a committee that is currently investigating whether or not “wokeness” exists at the UvA’s social sciences department, particularly ISS.


The issue was radicalized on several sides more or less simultaneously. ISS students, for example, demanded Buijs’ resignation via Instagram and the removal of the article from the Folia website. Folia’s editors did not comply with the latter request. Nothing is known about his possible dismissal, although Buijs has expressed this fear several times via Twitter. For his part, the issue was also radicalized via Twitter, where he took a stand in no uncertain terms against the UvA, the Executive Board, colleagues, and students who would not protect him.

University Press

The uproar got bigger and bigger and reached the university press last week. An annual joint conference is being organized; this year it will be held in Groningen. Buijs has been invited to be a panel member at a workshop there, but some of the chief editors of the university press disapprove of his role there. One of the board members of the Circle of Chief Editors has already resigned from the board because of it.


The support committee feels that there has been “a smear campaign” against Buijs. It is demanding action and writes: “This kind of campaign makes the academic work of a university teacher impossible. Academic freedom is at stake. The ‘libre examen’ (free examination) is undermined. The ‘social safety’ of teachers becomes a farce when dismissal and cancellation become the response to a scientific position (or minority position) that is unpopular. Even science and the university itself become impossible when this becomes common practice.”

The ‘social safety’ of teachers becomes a farce when dismissal and cancellation become the response to a unpopular scientific position
Foto: Acadamy of Europe
Jan Bergstra

The committee calls on colleges, deans, research directors, and others involved in the management and governance of Dutch universities, including the Minister of Education, to take a “strong” stand against such actions. “Students are free to be critical of the views of their professors or of a majority view in science. They can also contribute to science by, for example, writing an article themselves or engaging in conversation in the study group. But publicly calling for exclusion, cancellation, dismissal, boycott, or other coercive actions against their professors is not acceptable,” the committee said.



Meanwhile, a new player in the conflict has also appeared on the scene, and that is the professor emeritus of computer science and former chairman of the UvA’s central works council (COR), Jan Bergstra. He says he became interested in issues of gender and sexuality because of the Buijs case, but Bergstra is not a member of the support committee. He wrote a scholarly article with Buijs entitled “Formal Gender Theory. A logical perspective on Dembroff versus Byrne.” The publication, which can be read at the bottom of this article, will soon be submitted “to a leading scientific journal,” Bergstra said.


The support committee consists of the following scholars:


1.      Lieven Annemans, Professor of Health and Welfare Economics, University of Ghent.

2.      Michaël Bauwens, Philosopher, Academic Associate Postdoc, University of Antwerp.

3.      Boudewijn Bouckaert, Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Antwerp.

4.      Paul Cliteur, Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Leiden, UvA alumnus.

5.      Mattias Desmet, Professor, University of Ghent.

6.      Astrid Elbers, Linguist, University of Antwerp.

7.      Meindert Fennema, Professor Emeritus, UvA.

8.      Steven Greer, Director, Oxford Institute for British Islam, Professor Emeritus, University of Bristol Law School.

9.      Rumy Hasan, Senior lecturer, University of Sussex.

10.     Erik Jurgens, Professor Emeritus, VU and UM.

11.     Andreas Kinneging, Professor of Philosophy of Law, University of Leiden.

12.     Herwig Mannaert, Professor, University of Antwerp.

13.     David Pinto, Professor Emeritus-Director of the ICI Intercultural Institute, UvA.

14.     Peter Sloot, Professor of Complex Adaptive Systems, UvA.

15.     Matthias Storme, Professor, KU Leuven.

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