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Foto: Sara Kerklaan

UvA Board about the occupations: “This situation cannot last much longer”

Dirk Wolthekker,
8 mei 2024 - 16:44

Today, the Board of Executives of the UvA held two negociations with representatives of the occupiers of BG-4 (the building of the former Academic Club) and Oudemanhuispoort (OMP). Board Members Jan Lintsen (JL) and Peter-Paul Verbeek (PPV) spoke to Folia in between.

How do you view the current situation?

PPV: “It is good that we met with delegation of students and staff immediately this morning. We signaled a lot of concern and involvement, and rightly so. I share that commitment, at the same time it is proving difficult to maintain a safe and open dialogue for everyone.”

JL: “What we saw yesterday was an impressive demonstration, some of it directed against us as administrators. We are certainly not against that, demonstrating is allowed. But occupying, breaking things and intimidating behavior is not safe and not allowed.”

PPV: “The crux is that people should not impose their views on other people in an intimidating way.”


That BG-4 is occupied is clear, but what is the situation at the Oudemanhuispoort (OMP)?

JL: “We know that the protesters have been inside the OMP. Several employees have had to flee there. We don’t know if there are protesters inside the OMP now. Anyway, we cannot use the building right now.”

PPV: “There were 100 educational meetings scheduled today alone in the entire area of the BG site, including the OMP.”


You are negotiating today with a delegation of protesters. Who are these?

JL: “We are negotiating with eight people, both staff and students from the UvA and AUC/VU. In the negotiating group there are no people from outside those three organizations.”

PPV: “If the UvA becomes a platform for any kind of protest, including protest from outside the UvA, then you are not fulfilling your role as a university properly.”


What issues are on the table?

PPV: “We shared yesterday an overview of collaborations with Israeli academic institutions that are being worked with. Incidentally, we had done that much earlier, so there was a requirement that we had long since met. It’s not like we’re doing something very secretive or anything.”

JL: “So in addition, we have proposed a dialogue that, as far as we are concerned, can begin immediately. By the way, we do want to draw it more generally by including collaborations with other countries that are at war.”


The CSR chair called that a 'fake dialogue' yesterday because the UvA would ultimately leave everything as it is.

PPV: “From the term ‘fake dialogue’ I distance myself very sharply. Everything we do in this regard is similar to the dialogue on fossil fuels and that is tested against the guidelines set by the UvA’s ethics committee.”


It involves eight collaborative projects involving Israeli institutions. What do those collaborations look like?

PPV: “These are European collaborations within the European Union’s Horizon program. These are projects that are not entered into by the UvA as an institution, but by individual scientists who can subscribe to a project, as well as researchers from other countries, including Israeli ones. So it is not an institution-level collaboration, which does make the situation complex. It will not be easy to terminate the existing collaborations because they are linked to individuals and, in addition, there is also a kind of contractual obligation to the EU. That obligation must then be broken.”


“Something else is the student exchange programs. We have three of these at the institution level, but they have been put on hold because of the security situation in Israel. Those collaborations are reviewed by the UvA against an ethical framework and we could look at that more intensively in the future.”


Police intervention finally took place on the night of Monday to Tuesday. How do you look back on that?

JL: “It is very unfortunate that the police had to intervene. Nobody wanted this, including us. We had an agreement with the occupiers to leave the REC, but half of them eventually did not comply and then you end up in an eviction situation. The situation was too unsafe: barricades had been erected, the emergency services couldn't get past, there were fireworks, there was provocation from outside groups, there was vandalism and neighborly nuisance. That just can’t be.”

PPV: “That situation is happening again now: an unsafe situation has been created at BG-4 and the OMP, both for our students inside and for local residents outside. At the construction site of the new UB, items are being taken away and stones and tiles have been loosened o work up barricades. Considerable damage is being done.”


Will you file a police report in response to the occupation of BG-4 and OMP?

PPV: “We haven't filed that report yet because we want to stay in dialogue with the occupiers for as long as possible and hopefully we'll come out of it. On the other hand, the current situation at the OMP and BG-4 cannot last very long. The situation is very unsafe, both for our students and the surrounding area.”