The university’s new acknowledgement policy has caused quite a stir both within Wageningen and beyond. Last Tuesday, two online petitions had collected a combined total of 1200 signatures. The Academic Board met on Wednesday 12 March to review the situation.
Christians are particularly indignant at the ban on religious statements in the doctoral thesis acknowledgements. ‘For many Christian researchers, God is a source of inspiration in everything they do,’ explains Master’s student Sebastiaan Reuijl (International Development Studies). ‘Why can’t you mention Him in your acknowledgements when you can mention your family and friends?’ Reuijl is the man behind the petition on ipetitions.com. ‘As Christians, we feel these measures discriminate against us. I feel it is my responsibility to do something about it. This petition came about after I’d talked to a couple of friends.’
Reuijl soon discovered there was another petition on activism.com. ‘After talking to them, we decided that my petition, which is in English, would target staff and students. The other one is for people outside the university.’ In the space of a week, the two petitions combined have more than 1200 signatures from within Wageningen UR and outside. Reuijl says the Academic Board has been informed of the campaign. The signatures are in support of a letter to the board asking for the measure to be cancelled.
But the opposition is not limited to Wageningen as the Wageningen acknowledgements policy has also raised eyebrows in the rest of the Netherlands too. Nearly all the national media mentioned the question; the main reaction, apart from reflections on the principle of separating science from religion, is one of surprise. The comments on the Resource website are mainly negative, ranging from ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘dubious’ to ‘stupid’ and ‘nit-picking’. The university is sticking to its guns for the time being in its replies to the media.
However, the Academic Board has not been unaffected by the commotion. Rector Martin Kropff has announced that the Academic Board is meeting on Wednesday evening 12 March to discuss the situation. The WUR Council has now also got involved in the question. In a letter to the Executive Board, the council asks what the justification is for a ban on God in the acknowledgements. ‘The doctoral degree regulations say nothing about the acknowledgements. So you could say the acknowledgements are not part of the doctoral thesis,’ explains spokesman Marc Loman. The WUR Council is also asking for the right to be consulted on the doctoral degree regulations.