News - January 27, 2011

Professors and the walls of Jericho

On God's orders, on the seventh day Joshua led the people of Israel seven times around the walls of Jericho, after which the massive walls crumbled like biscuits.

With this Old Testament story in mind, more than 1,000 professors set off in academic gowns in an impressive procession to circle the seat of the Dutch government in The Hague seven times. To protest against cuts in higher education. Meanwhile more than 15,000 students gathered on the Malieveld in front of Secretary of State Zijlstra. While one bared his bottom, another waved a banner with the message that from now on the only thing he'd be allowed to deduct would be his penis.
From now on students may take a year extra over their Bachelor's degree and the same for their Master's degree, and after that it's topped up tuition fees. At first sight it does not seem unreasonable, but there is a catch. The new rule is being applied with immediate effect and many current students are affected by it. Even the universities are to be penalized for students who go over time: 3,000 euros per student per year. That is the equivalent of the loss of 20 jobs. Changing the rules in the middle of the game like this is just not on.
'Seven times around the earth, if necessary on hands and knees', wrote Ida Gerhardt in one of the most beautiful poems in the Dutch language. The professors only walked around the Hofvijver, and not on hands and knees either. Yet they too hoped for a miracle. Would the walls of Rutte's tower crumbled away after seven circuits?