The debate climate at the UvA has made former Shell chief executive Jeroen van der Veer decide not to come to Room for Discussion today. He was supposed to come to discuss climate change and the fossil industry, among other things.
“Wanted. Climate Criminal: Jeroen van der Veer.” With those ominous words, UvARebellion and Autonomous Student Struggle announced the arrival of former Shell chief Jeroen van der Veer at the debate platform Room for Discussion. The idea that he would get a platform at the UvA went too far for them. “No climate wreckers on campus! No climate wreckers on campus!” - said the brief explanation to the message on Instagram.
Yesterday, Van der Veer informed the Room for Discussion organization that he was foregoing an invitation to speak. According to the organization, the reason he gave was that the climate at the UvA is “not conducive to a fruitful conversation.” “He is very proactive,” UvARebellion responded on Instagram. “He cancels himself before we did; we'll get you later.”
Room for Discussion regrets the turn of events, they announced in a press release. “While we appreciate students' genuine interest and involvement, meaningful public discussion is not possible when our guests feel unsafe and do not have the opportunity to share their thoughts. When our guests cancel, we lose the opportunity to ask them critical questions, and the audience is thus unable to hear their views.”
Two previous guest appearances
From 2004 to 2009, Van der Veer was chief executive officer of the Shell oil company, then stayed on as a member of the supervisory board for four more years. He would later hold the same position at numerous other large companies of Dutch origin such as Philips, ING Bank, and now Boskalis. He recently wrote a book about his experiences at these multinationals, Lessons in Leadership.
Van der Veer has been a guest at Room for Discussion twice before. In 2011, as commissioner of Shell, he spoke about plummeting oil prices following conflicts in Libya and his vision of leadership. Three years later, the conversation turned to “geopolitics, leadership, and the future of energy.” No disturbances occurred at either talk.
Research collaboration with Shell
The fossil industry, and Shell in particular, has been under fire at the UvA for some time. The university previously announced it would no longer initiate new research collaboration with Shell. But opponents of Shell, including UvARebellion, also want to put a stop to current research collaboration.
The UvA is currently organizing discussions to gather different perspectives at the university. Sentiment turned against the oil company during the first session, Folia noted. “The UvA should cut ties with Shell,” was apparently the opinion of a narrow majority, Folia noted.