Fuss about poster calling for resistance against leftist teachers


“Stand up against your teachers!” says the text on a poster with which political party Forum voor Democratie advertises a speech by Leiden professor Paul Cliteur about ‘leftist teachers’. In the background, a protester is throwing rocks.

Read in Dutch

Read in Dutch

The poster has caused quite the stir on social media. UU professor Ingrid Robeyns, for example, calls “the poster in which someone’s throwing stones intimidating (or do we think this is normal???)” and thinks it demonises teachers. She says it’ll result in “introvert or moderately left/critical scientists will stay silent more. That can’t be in the best interest of freedom of speech.”

Rector magnificus Carel Stolker of Leiden University had some busy days. On Twitter, he announced he emailed Cliteur about the ‘unsavory poster’ on Wednesday evening. In his email, he stated that it’s “totally wrong if it makes students or teachers feel unsafe.”

Cliteur responded by saying he agrees with Stolker and the students and teachers who’d emailed him. “What the origins were of the student throwing rocks, I’m not sure, actually. I, too, saw it for the first time last night.”

He streses that the scientific bureau of Forum voor Democratie, of which he’s chairman, calls students to think critically, and “in no way calls for disruption of order by means of violence.”

Incidentally, he also announced he sadly won’t be able to provide any personal contribution to the event on Saturday in Zandvoort. The next time, however, he hopes to be able to show that “it’s very well possible to be able to hold an interesting dialogue with respect for each other’s opinions.”

Responding to our question on whether he regrets the fuss, Cliteur answers: “Definitely, a stir is always a sad thing, because it distracts from the main cause: how can you realise your true ideological diversity in universities and educational organisations? That’s an international discussion that’s come to the Netherlands from the United States, and it’s an important one.”

Is he going to do anything to prevent another poster like this from showing up to advertise future meetings? “I’ll always try, but mistakes in communication do happen.”

Leftist stronghold
The past year, there’s been quite the discussion about political diversity in science. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences researched it, and came to the conclusion that science is no longer a leftist stronghold, and there’s no self-censorship happening.

But the government doesn’t entirely trust that. On Tuesday, a majority voted for a VVD motion in which is said that the minister should call on universities and knowledge institutes to keep attention on possible limited diversity of perspectives in science.

Translation: Indra Spronk

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