Discussion of TU/e demonstration policy by University Council postponed again

Following the many protests by University Rebellion and the indeterminate way in which the university deals with this issue, the Executive Board had promised clearer policy on campus demonstrations last year already. Many months went by before it was scheduled to be discussed in the University Council meeting of 25 September. The subject has now been pulled from the agenda, however, but not before the associated documents had been put online and Cursor was able to take a look at them.

photo Eoneren / iStock

Work on a demonstration protocol was to commence as early as November 2022. In the University Council (UR) meeting of November 28, 2022, then Vice-President of the Executive Board Nicole Ummelen said: “There are rules for protesting at TU/e, but there’s no protocol on the exact action to be taken when things are threatening to get out of hand.” University Rebellion repeatedly asked – and was promised – to see those rules, but so far they haven’t received anything, the protest group tells us.

Postponed again

Fast forward to the present, almost a year later. The rules and the policy was scheduled to be discussed in the upcoming UR meeting on September 25. However, the discussion has once again been postponed, to the meeting of November 2023. When we asked the UR what’s going on, they told us that the discussion that had been ‘moved up’ to the September meeting, after it had originally been decided to postpone it to November in the June meeting, would come too early for the committee. University Council Chair Trees Klaver: “Before the summer, it was agreed to discuss the matter in November. Moving it up to September would’ve meant the relevant committee wouldn’t have had enough time to prepare, so we jointly agreed to push it back to November again.”

The letter accompanying the demonstration policy to be discussed shows that for one thing, the discussion was postponed to November due to the escalation of the protest on 11 May, when Executive Board President Robert-Jan Smit and security offers intervened physically. A legal procedure on the matter is ongoing.

Basic policy principles

The document on the basic policy principles relating to manifestations that Cursor was able to inspect – it was briefly online before it was taken off again – lacks concreteness in many ways. For example, concepts such as acting professionally, experiencing nuisance and length of time have yet to be clearly defined. Physical interventions by in-house staff isn’t mentioned in the document, although it does say that TU/e itself will be the first organization to take regulatory action. There’s no explanation of what this means exactly.

The letter accompanying the policy document states that the introduction of this policy was motivated by the demonstration that took place on March 15, 2022. During this demonstration, at the Career Event in the Auditorium, students had already been told they weren’t following the rules and that they therefore had to leave. But nobody was able to say exactly what those rules were. In other words, one thing the letter indicates is that there was no policy in place at the time.

Many questions

Also having noticed the online documents, University Rebellion took the opportunity to read them. “They raised many questions with us,” Robin Kwakkernaat says on behalf of University Rebellion. The protest group also isn’t too happy with never having seen the rules they supposedly broke, nor with the lack of policy. “As there’s no policy, we are simply abiding by the law and using our right to protest. As the judge said in the court case following the protest of March 15, 2022, we had the right to protest, a right that even supersedes the Public Assemblies Act. The university must facilitate this right. It's extremely frustrating for us that the discussion is being postponed all the time. It feels like we’re not being taken seriously, which doesn’t stop us from protesting but may lead to complications if the university acts wrongfully again. And we can’t currently hold the board accountable based on their own rules, because there aren’t any. The only thing that’s happened so far is that the public prosecutor has acquitted us from persecution, but that’s the very least we expected. It doesn’t change that our protest was terminated unlawfully, which is something that won’t be amended anymore.”

Share this article