In my opinion | University Rebellion got it all wrong
Everyone with a bit of knowledge of the history of the Wervingsdagen was probably not surprised by the protest of University Rebellion (UR) on the first day of the Career Expo. Compagnies have always been drawing protests towards them. In the 80s it started with weapon manufacturer HSA, now part of Thales. Later on the main target was Shell, first because of their involvement in South Africa during the apartheid regime, nowadays because of the CO2-emissions of the petrochemical industry.
After the last protest at the Career Expo in 2016 it has been quiet for a while. The protest of last Tuesday has more or less been announced in the manifest that UR wrote. I will not bore the reader with a full analysis of this document, but it is typical of the poor state of the climate debate in this country: full of dogmatic beliefs and totally blind when it comes to the practical implications. Add some ignorance and Marxism and you have a document that totally misses the point. I cannot imagine why people want to use this document at this university.
Let us start with the demand of UR to declare a ‘ climate emergency’. Last two years we have had to deal with a pandemic. In our country we, contrary to lots of other countries, did not declare an emergency state. An emergency state gives the government tremendous amounts of power without lots of democratic control. During the pandemic we only used one ‘ emergency measurement’, curfew, and especially in Eindhoven we should know that the support for this kind of measurements is quit low. It is quite strange to see that those in favor of these kind of totalitarian measurements are now shocked by the acts of the police against them.
The second demand is that universities should do more about education about the climate crisis. I am a bit appalled by this statement. During my studies Chemical Engineering all my projects covered the topic of sustainability. Lots of people work hard everyday to make the energy transistion work, something that is totally ignored by this manifesto.
This brings me to the demand that the university should cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry. This dogma (the fossil fuel industry is bad), will not help us further. For a substantial amount of time we will still need fossil fuels and its derivatives. In the coalition agreement of the Rutte IV government a clear choice has been made for a green industry policy with binding industry agreements. To become carbon neutral without losing the benefits of having a large (chemical) industry, both economic as geopolitical benefits, lots of research and innovation will need to take place. This is the most important argument for a good relationship between university and industry.
Last but not least I want to talk about the demand about the presence of fossil fuel compagnies at the Career Expo. One should know the Wervingsdagen is a collaboration between 10 study associations and the selection of compagnies takes places after a dialogue with these associations. You can safely state that the presence of these compagnies has a large support within the student community. This reviewing process can be viewed as democratic so imposing your view by protest is not the way forward (writing to the associations and Stichting Wervingsdagen and going to the GMMs of your study association is). I hope UR will let go of these stupid demands in the future. If they really want to make a difference for the climate, go study Chemical Engineering, you are very welcome.
I want to end on a positive note. I am in favor of a strong civil society, so action groups are needed. I quite like the demand to strive for a carbon neutral university in 2025 and it is nice to see that UR also view the universities as independent, thereby supporting the freedom of education. I only think that the climate is only helped by a lot more rational approach.
Jeroen Janse was treasurer of the Wervingsdagen Commission 2015 and is chairman of the policy group ‘Sustainability, Nature and Agriculture’ of the Christian Democratic Youth Appeal