The COT Institute for Safety, Security and Crisis Management was supposed to investigate the controversial actions of university security during and after the pro-Palestine demonstration at Wijnhaven on 9 November. The University Council criticised the choice of COT due to a potential lack of independence.
The institute, founded by FGGA dean Erwin Muller, is currently collaborating with the university in the field of crisis management. Last week, University Council Chair Pauline Vincenten already raised questions about the institute’s independence in a letter to the Executive Board.
Since COT has decided to relinquish the assignment itself, the potential conflict of interest of the research institute was not further discussed in the Council meeting.
However, Ottow did briefly address the events of 9 November: ‘The Board wants to state upfront that following students and staff outside buildings cannot be justified.’ She referred to this as an ‘extremely embarrassing mistake’. That is why it is important to ‘conduct an evaluation’, said Ottow. She stressed that the house rules have been expanded since November and several teach-ins have taken place in consultation with the university.
Council member Joost Augusteijn of staff party LAG still had some questions about the approach taken by COT: ‘The communication about the investigation gave the impression that the actions of the staff members who were present at the demonstration at Wijnhaven would be measured against the house rules. But it’s not at all clear by what standards the actions of the security guards are being measured. It’s important to have clarity about the assignment.’
Patrick Klaassen of UB also wanted to see the assignment given to COT: ‘It’s unfortunate that COT relinquished the assignment itself, for technical reasons, and not after self-reflection by the Executive Board. For the sake of transparency and social safety, I would also like to see the assignment.’
Vice-chairman of the Executive Board Martijn Ridderbos responded: ‘For us as the Executive Board, it’s important to have a full factual account of the situation. What we need to do now is gather all the facts and discuss them with the Council. Should that be grounds for the Council to want to discuss further, then we are open to that.’
In the end, the Board agreed to share the assignment given to COT with the Council.
Some confusion arose during the meeting when Council member Ebrar Kaya (LVS) inquired about the lack of answers to questions raised by his party and DSP on the security actions. Ottow responded with surprise: ‘We were under the impression that we wouldn't be addressing any more specific questions after our prior discussion.’
Kaya responded by saying that some questions had been partially answered, but that a full response was needed before the Council and the Executive Board could engage in discussion on equal terms. After some back-and-forth, it was agreed to discuss any remaining questions during the next Council meeting.