Protests at Maastricht University - Update 9

Read a personal message written by Rianne Letschert - also on behalf of the Executive Board and deans - here.

Dear colleagues, students and residents of Maastricht,

The Whitsun weekend passed off relatively quietly at our university. This feels strange to say at a time when students are spending the night in tents on our grounds, with some of them now on hunger strike. I say 'relatively' quiet - because much has been written and discussed about those on hunger strike in recent days. Undertaking a hunger strike to make a point is a stark choice, and we are concerned about their health. Naturally, we have offered medical counselling.

In our previous message to you, we wrote that everything is focused on safety and de-escalation, and nothing has changed in that regard. We are learning to deal with a form of protest more passionate than we have seen in the Netherlands for decades. Quite frankly, the way protests are conducted is not always our way. But we understand in our heads and hearts that there are people who sympathise so strongly with the terrible situation in Gaza that they go this far in their actions. By allowing the protest, within reasonable limits, we do justice to the intensity of emotion around this topic within a part of our academic community. As we said in our previous blog, we learn to acknowledge each other in feelings of anger, sadness and powerlessness felt on so many fronts.

Besides feeling sympathy for those driven to action by their principles, we also have clear boundaries. We see graffiti appearing on our buildings and there are more reports of antisemitic language. It is unclear who is behind this. We have reported it to the police, because vandalism and discrimination do not match our definition of safe protesting. Furthermore, where possible and appropriate, we apply the established sanctions for violation of our house rules. Let's prove that we can continue to have this discussion in Maastricht in a decent way: through conversations rather than with spray cans.

Maintaining boundaries in protest actions is also important to minimise the impact  on the work and study environment for staff and students. We realise that we won’t be able to completely accommodate those - students and staff - who wholeheartedly and explicitly hold a different opinion than the activists. We are in dialogue with them and try to listen to and understand their feelings and situation, and to come up with appropriate measures.

I also notice that quite a few people I talk to are asking when this protest will stop. And I don't have an answer to that right now. The work of the Executive Board and the deans is not aimed towards ending the protest as soon as possible. We are considering establishing a framework within which we can freeze or end collaborations based on an approach that is as clear as it is identifiable. 

We were already working on such a framework and its preparation process has now gained momentum. Yet speed cannot come at the expense of accuracy and diligence here. We want to include our democratically elected University Council in this and they also have a formal right to advise us.

We are building a solid framework, with a view to the long term and applicable in more situations than just the current one. A framework that suits our mores, our way of working together and our academic tradition.

This week will be an important one. We are working towards concluding the conversation with the deans and the University Council about the assessment framework and we will be seeking out even more emphatically the voices of colleagues we are not hearing now. First of all, we hope you never feel pressured to speak out. Please feel free to do so. With us, with your dean or with another colleague. It helps us to keep in touch with the developing views and opinions of colleagues and students. 

Finally, for now, the thoughts, feelings and voices of the thousands of people who make up Maastricht University’s academic community sometimes point in different directions. We may find that complicated. We may find that difficult. But why should we? After all, all of you once came here with the desire to fathom complexity. All the messages and language expressions that have reached us in recent weeks add up to a mosaic typical of Maastricht. Our community of staff and students is both loud and silent. Our community shows both determination and modesty. Our community is both concerned and hopeful.  

Will you please continue to be all these things? That is what suits us best.

Also on behalf of Pamela Habibović, Nick Bos  and all deans of Maastricht University,
Rianne Letschert

More updates

  • Maastricht University's Executive Board, in close consultation with the deans, is developing a human rights due diligence assessment tool to help make an informed assessment of whether, and if so to what extent, our partners with whom we have an administrative partnership are involved in violations...

  • In the morning of Wednesday, 22 May, a group of student protestors occupied a Maastricht University (UM) building at Grote Gracht. This prompted the university to engage in discussions with the protesters, some of whom had also set up a tent camp behind the building the previous week. 

  • Due to the occupation of some of the FASoS buildings, FASoS will be closed until further notice. There will be no teaching on-campus today and we are looking into whether classes can move online. Our students will be informed about the closure of our buildings and the consequences this has on...

More news items
  • UM is still in dialogue with the protesting students that are involved in today's occupation of the FASoS building. The aim is and remains 'de-escalation', and the safety of everyone involved comes first. At the same time, we want to ensure that we can fulfil our primary task, education and research...

  • For safety reasons and to ensure the continuity of teaching and research, Maastricht University has taken a number of measures.

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