Protesters gather on TU/e campus to express their right to demonstrate

Several protesters gathered in MetaForum on May 12 to express their right to demonstrate. The protest follows the massive police actions during a recent protest against Shell’s presence at the TU/e Career Expo, during which three demonstrators from University Rebellion were arrested.

The demonstration in MetaForum proceeded calmly and was attended by some fifty to sixty people. Assistant professor Minha Lee and full professor Erik van der Vleuten gave speeches about the importance of freedom of expression for students and the need for a continued debate at the university. Lee: “I’m here to defend our students’ rights. It’s not always that easy to stand up for what you believe in, but it is very important that we continue to do this.”

University Rebellion demands an apology from the Executive Board for the police actions on campus. Two TU/e organizations. Technology for Global Development (TGD) and Eindhoven History Lab, which is chaired by Van der Vleuten, posted statements on their sites regarding the police actions some time ago. Henny Romijn, associated professor at TGD and one of the two initiators for putting the statements online, asked the Executive Board to make a statement about the situation back then. Board president Robert-Jan Smits and vice-president Nicole Ummelen did attend today’s demonstration but did not issue a public statement. “We are here to listen.” Ummelen did however tell Cursor that this kind of protest, “as peaceful as here, is what we like to see.”

Role of active bystanders

Van der Vleuten said in his speech: “Teachers encourage students to speak their minds. And sometimes they say things we teachers don’t want to hear. But we do want them to continue to say these things and not be hauled away by the police. We want a safe working environment, which is something the university has seriously invested in. Think of active bystander training sessions, for example. Being an active bystander means speaking up when you witness something that’s unacceptable. The arrests on March 15 were an example of such a moment when staff members should have spoken up to protect and support students.”

The demonstrators who were arrested on March 15 have been prosecuted and had to pay fines of 200 and 300 euros. One protester also spent three days in jail. One of the arrested students was visibly affected when she stood on the podium and told the attendees what it was like for her to have to go through all this. “TU/e used violence to try and silence us. I ask the university to deal with criticism in a constructive way.” She turns to the members of the Executive Board: “We demand an apology for blocking the protest and for arresting the students.”

Need for an Eindhoven Student union

Naomi Rajiv of national student union LSVb was also present during the protest to voice her support for the right to demonstrate and to express how important it is for a student union to offer its support in matters like these. Because Eindhoven is the only student city without a union of its own. There used to be one though. Elena Dagg from University Rebellion responded: “It’s clear that we need a union again.”

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