Students of Extinction Rebellion want more transparency from WUR on its collaboration with the private sector.
The protest in Atlas Atrium. © Resource
Upfield, the World’s largest plant-based margarine producer is to locate its R&D centre on Wageningen Campus. Protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) decided to ‘welcome’ Upfield with a protest in the atrium of Atlas. At least fifteen students protested with a sit-in (under the social distancing requirement of one-and-a-half metres) on Thursday 2 July from 11.00 am. The activists demand that WUR show greater transparency in its collaboration with the private sector. The students left the building at around 2.00 pm, following a discussion with university spokesperson Simon Vink.
Malik Dasoo (25), master student International Land and Water Management, attended the protest. ‘We want an open dialogue to involve students and employees in the decision-making process regarding collaboration with the private sector. After our climate march in May 2019, the university promised to enter into talks with us. During the climate dialogue with Arthur Mol Last January, we requested an official reaction from the university on its collaboration with the private sector. This has yet to be released.
‘Since the university failed to initiate a dialogue on this issue, RUW stepped up’, Says Dasoo. ‘As usual, it was up to the students. That event was scheduled for the beginning of March but was postponed due to the corona outbreak. The university took no initiatives to offer an online alternative.’
While the dialogue was postponed, a new private party has been added to the campus. Disappointing, says Dasoo. ‘This demonstrates that the university does not take its students seriously. Although I am currently replacing another S&I member [Sustainability & Internationalisation, ed.] in the student council, I learned the news of Upfield planning to settle on campus from De Gelderlander. We were neither informed nor consulted by the executive board.’
‘We are deeply disappointed in WUR,’ Dasoo concludes. ‘The discussion on this topic has been postponed for far too long. We want clear guidelines to indicate at what point the university decides to collaborate with the private sector. This is why we protest, whle respecting the corona mitigation restrictions.’
University spokesperson Simon Vink has a different take on the issue. ‘The activists did not adhere to the campus corona measures. These prohibit gatherings on campus unless the board has granted permission. They failed to obtain said permission. Neither were they permitted entry into Atlas, which is currently required to prevent too many people from entering the building. Thus, they hindered employees who had gone to the trouble of obtaining permission.’
‘I am surprised that Malik did not make use of his position in the student council to pose questions to the executive board,’ Vink adds. ‘However, in real estate transactions of this kind, the student council has no role. The board adheres strictly to the legal rules and regulations on involving the student council in its decision-making processes. On 18 December the executive summary of the mid-term review of the campus strategy was shared with the central works council. This did not prompt any questions. Representatives of the student council were certainly informed on the strategy.’
Postponement dialogue ‘A dialogue was planned but had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s a bit strange to suggest a year has passed; this is not the case. In a previous dialogue with the rector, issues of this nature were covered.’
The Upfield research centre being established on campus, is formally not a collaboration, Vink states. ‘They fortify the research ecosystem in which people inspire each other and share facilities. WUR is open about its collaborations. In the case of publications, external funding and its source are always stipulated. In short,’ Vink concludes, ‘the university is completely transparent in its collaboration with companies, private parties, NGO’s and the government.’