Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl said she would be happy to engage in debate, but not during the Dies. Instead, that discussion took place on Tuesday afternoon last week.
End Fossil want the university to cut ties with the fossil industry, be transparent about existing collaborations and take the lead in fighting climate change, for example by including climate education in curricula.
One of the End Fossil members present expressed ‘cautious optimism’ after the discussion.
‘I understand that they’re not going to meet all our demands right away, but they showed understanding during the meeting and seemed to appreciate how committed we are’, says Luca (surname known to editors). ‘What was strange though was that upon entry, our bags and student cards were checked, but even the Rector admitted that was odd.’
‘We explained our disappointment with the policy so far. We believe that, as an academic institution, the university shouldn’t lag behind events but rather get ahead of them. The Board mainly said that they value academic freedom highly and don't want to dictate to academics with whom they can and cannot collaborate. On the one hand, I get that, but then again, nobody collaborates with the tobacco industry either. It's too convenient to pin it all on individual researchers like that.’
The university board also announced that an overview of all ties with the fossil industry is in the works, as confirmed by university spokesperson Caroline van Overbeeke.
‘Such an overview requires a careful approach. And that takes time. This is not about creating a complete list right away, but rather about initially sharing the most important information. For example: projects or activities funded by the fossil industry.’
The Board also wants to set up a working group in which lecturers and students can discuss university policy regarding fossil fuels.
Van Overbeeke: ‘They will be given the task of encouraging and organising a debate around the theme of cooperation with the fossil industry. We want the voices of both supporters and opponents to be heard in this debate. The Board will consult the community first and foremost before taking any decision. That is the Leiden approach.’
The University of Amsterdam recently announced that it will not start any new collaborations with the fossil industry.