News - September 28, 2017


Stijn van Gils

The man falls silent for a moment and there is no need for me to fill the silence. My thoughts wander. Secretly, yesterday’s ceremony was lovely. Almost surrealistic. I hadn’t felt the need for a PhD ceremony but somehow it is nice to be a doctor. It gives some peace of mind.


Today I’m feeling a bit dazed. Luckily that’s not a problem. This new client has already decided I can write for him. He’s not worried about my having a PhD. Who knows, I might end up being proud of my title. After all, it implies a capacity for independent thinking based on facts, for a critical attitude to society, wary of anything so trivial as your organization’s interests. There’s something admirable about that.

The man asks about any additional activities. Do I have any dubious sidelines? ‘Well, I’m a guest lecturer at WUR.’ In exchange for a WUR account I’ll be giving the odd free lecture. That reduces education costs for WUR and I love teaching. Perhaps my love of science is not completely over, after all.

The man laughs. That was obviously not the sort of sideline he meant. ‘Of course, but a university is not an interest group,’ he says. I nod. Guest researcher or not, I set my own course. Even if it goes right against WUR’s interests. In fact, I consider that my duty as a doctor. Anything less would be unworthy of a scientist.

Back home I leaf through the documentation of my new life. My eye suddenly falls on line 3 of the ‘Declaration by external workers’, a ‘little formality’ I was quickly signing.

I blink and look again. It’s still there: ‘Undersigned will avoid any action which could harm the interests of WUR, directly or indirectly.’ I swallow. Really? Is this my university?