Executive Board to enter into dialogue with University Rebellion

Robert-Jan Smits, president of TU/e’s Executive Board, listened to action group University Rebellion Eindhoven this afternoon. The group had invited him to accept their manifesto, in which they urge the university to commit to carbon neutrality and to sever its ties to fossil fuel industry. Similar groups demanded attention to climate change at twelve universities today.

Activist and TU/e Master’s students Bram Boer read a summary of the manifesto on the stairs of MetaForum. “Universities have a duty to teach students about ecology and the climate crisis, and about what the consequences will be if we fail to take action now. We demand that the campus will be carbon neutral by 2025, and that TU/e severs its ties with Shell and other oil companies.”

In his response, executive board administrator Smits pointed out that TU/e’s contribution to energy transition is quite significant as it is. “I’m proud of student teams such as CASA, CORE, Lightyear and many others that are committed to mitigating the climate crisis. TU/e invests significantly with the launch of institutes such as the Eindhoven Institute for Renewable Energy System (EIRES).”

Earlier this week, Boer had threatened to start a campaign, and he concluded his speech this afternoon with “If you do not act, we will make you act.” Smits responded rather matter-of-factly and said “I prefer to look at your demands as requests and I’m certainly prepared to enter into a dialogue. Let us make an appointment soon. I want to read this manifesto thoroughly first.”


Among those present is Vera Crommetuijn, standing on an X marked with crayon. She represents Japie, the study association of the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, of which she is a board member. “I came here today because I was curious about this statement, but I now wonder whether University Rebellion seriously looked into all the things TU/e has already committed to in this area. I know that many groups at our department are focused on the future and on sustainability.”

Talk afterwards

Smits takes the time for a short talk with Boer after the manifestation is over. It quickly leads to a – calm – discussion about whether or not TU/e should collaborate with Shell. Smits: “We don’t want to exclude anyone in the energy transition. When Shell asks us to contribute towards a transition to sustainable energy, I don’t think we should refuse.” Boer responds by asking whether a university should collaborate with a company that shows ten percent goodwill while it continues to destroy the environment with the other 90 percent. For now, Smits’s position remains: “We need to consider the long term and help everyone make the switch.”


Boer refers to the projects mentioned by Smits as “flagship projects,” “good for greenwashing.” Had TU/e been carbon neutral already, we would have heard it by now, he believes. “There’s a lack of transparency.” He refuses to say anything at this point about the campaigns University Rebellion intends to start with should their manifesto of demands lead to nothing. “We will first wait and see when the appointment with the Executive Board is going to take place. Spokesperson Jongsma promised that it will happen before Christmas, but I expect it to take several weeks. In that case, we will resort to non-violent civil disobedience.”

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