UU: 'Reporting point is at odds with what we stand for'

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Anton Pijpers, President of the Executive Board of the University of Utrecht, stated that the Forum for Democracy indoctrination reporting point “is at odds with what the University stands for”. He emphasizes that teachers deserve respect.

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Two weeks ago, Forum for Democracy opened a reporting point under the motto “the new school struggle”. The party calls on pupils and students to report examples of indoctrination at their school or university.

Anton Pijpers, President of the Executive Board of the University of Utrecht, informs DUB that, as far as he is concerned, the reporting point “does not do justice to the unbridled efforts of the teachers who are working to educate students”. He believes that teachers deserve respect.

Earlier this week, in his speech, Pijpers emphasized that freedom of thought and open debate based on arguments and respect form the foundation of the University community. Pijpers: “This means that all kinds of opinions and ideas can be expressed and brought up for discussion. We teach our students to become acquainted with different opinions and to enter into discussions. We have complete confidence in our employees and the critical thinking ability of our students.”

At the end of last week, however, a UU teacher came under fire when he posted the text “Volkert, where are you?” on Facebook. The man has been suspended for the time being. Pijpers: “We believe that as an employee you have to be able to say a lot, certainly in the private sphere. But this is a reference to a murder from our recent political history – which according to the employee was not intended literally.” According to Pijpers, it is beyond dispute that it is a reprehensible remark. However, the Executive Board is taking the time to “carefully” weigh what “proportional steps” are against the teacher in question. “This is exactly about where the limit is situated.”

Pijpers finds the explicit death threats to the employee's address, which he received after apologizing on Facebook, “terrible”. According to him, they show how quickly issues can degenerate into intimidation. “As a society, we must stand guard against this. Let us start the debate on the basis of arguments and with respect.”

Earlier today, Maastricht rector Letschert already criticized the reporting point. She too thinks it is against the core values of her University: independent practice of science, academic freedom and being a safe learning and working environment. Education unions, minister Arie Slob and representatives of all other parties in the Dutch parliament - with the exception of the PVV - also opposed the Forum initiative. According to the minister, it is “a modern pillory”.

Forum’s Secretary Rob Rooken reacted to the NOS in astonishment at the fuss. According to him, it is “not the intention to make teachers feel unsafe”. By now “hundreds of e-mails” have already been received. The secretary cannot yet say what will happen with these e-mails.

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