Student - June 19, 2008

Demonstrators barred from head office

Students and staff demonstrating for press freedom at Wageningen UR were refused entry to the head office on Thursday 12 June. The reasons given by spokesman Simon Vink were fire safety regulations and the risk of vandalism and theft. Thanks to one activist who had a key the demonstrators were able to present their petition after all.

Around midday on Thursday almost one hundred students and staff gathered in front of the head office in Wageningen for a silent protest, organised by the WSO student union and PSF student party. But as the demonstration started, at twelve thirty, the main entrance was closed. ‘The administration centre is a non-public building,’ announced Vink. ‘In addition, the building cannot so many people, and we are afraid that laptops might disappear.’ The spokesman added that an alternative had been discussed beforehand with the organisers, but they were not prepared to change their plans.

After the back door had been opened, the demonstrators walked in silence through the corridors of the head office. On their way to the offices of the Executive Board members, their way was blocked by a health and safety officer. After a brief discussion, Martin Kropff was prepared to receive the petition downstairs in the hall, as long as the people eating lunch there were not disturbed.

Upon receipt of the signatures, Kropff declared that the intention of the Executive Board is to have open, critical discussion in the newspaper. ‘But it must be according to the rules: we don’t want articles announcing a reorganisation before it has been officially discussed,’ said the rector.

In a meeting last week with the rector, the student council fractions tried to make it clear that they do not like the new-style Resource. ‘We are not impressed with the new newspaper,’ said Sicco Stortelder of the PSF. ‘We want an independent newspaper, not a university PR magazine, and we want to know why the requirements for the new newspaper were formulated in the way they were.’ The PSF and WSO organised the demonstration to show that the subject is a matter of concern among students and staff. ‘We want to see a new tender procedure, in which students can have a say about the programme of requirements for the newspaper. This is unworthy of the university,’ said Stortelder.

Paul Hebinck from the Rural Development Sociology group came to the head office for the same reasons. An ‘announcement bulletin from the Executive Board’ is just another element in the rise of the business culture and the decline of academic culture. ‘Policy here has degenerated into top-down statements.’

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