University aims to tighten up its smoking policy

Call for responses: Are you being patronised at university?

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You can’t eat meat anymore, smoking is strongly advised against, you shouldn’t use your car, and only savages travel by plane. The university knows all about what’s healthy and sustainable, but when does advice become patronising? And how much pressure does that impose on employees and students whose opinions are different? DUB is collecting stories and responses.

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“My colleagues paid me a compliment about the salad I’d brought to lunch. Until someone noticed the bits of meat in it. That was not done, they told me. Suddenly, I had to defend myself.”

“As a smoker, even when I’m right there, people talk about me as a lesser being in many ways. I’m even yelled at when I’m smoking.”

“I’d finally managed to go on my dream holiday to Africa. Filled with excitement, I wanted to tell everyone all about it. The only response I got, was the question of whether I wasn’t ashamed of myself for travelling by plane.”

These are a few of the stories DUB has collected from employees and students at the university. These are people who have started to become uncomfortable at their work or in class. They feel they can’t talk freely anymore, as if they must carefully weigh every single word they say. “Will I be allowed to say at university that I had a Black Pete visit my home for Sinterklaas?”

Don’t eat meat
In its strategic plan, the university mentions that UU research should contribute to the solution of social issues. What, then, are scientists supposed to do? Look, for instance, at the discussion on climate change: are scientists supposed to show what the developments are, and what the consequences will be to society, or should they use the research as a starting point to explicitly offer solution and advice to civilians on how to improve their behaviour? Look at the call to urge people not to eat meat, to reduce CO2 emissions. In other disciplines, similar discussions are taking place. Should scientists show what the effects are of unhealthy lifestyles, or should they offer advice on how one can urge people to eat less fat, to fight obesity?

Universities have a reputation of being leftist strongholds, promoting themselves with their work on sustainability or diversity. To what extent, then, is there room for objective research, with total academic freedom? As a UU scientists, are you allowed to put the importance of sustainability in perspective, advocating fossil fuels? And if you’re studying immigration, are you allowed to focus mainly on the negative aspects?

Leaving the car at home
It’s not surprising the university wants to practice what is being preached in scientists’ work. The university wants to lead by example. “We want a sustainable operation,” said president Anton Pijpers in his New Year’s speech. “And we want good leadership, and a sustainable HR policy, which pays attention to gender diversity.” So, the president talked to the academic community about their airplane travel, asked people to leave their cars at home more often in their commute to work. Said boards and committees should have more women. Additionally, there are departments at the university where lunches with meat have been banned, there’s a programme to help employees exercise more often, and there are announcements pointing out the dangers of alcohol abuse.

Safe space
On Monday, the university raised the rainbow flag in protest of the Nashville statement. What would the university do with a professor like the ones at the VU who’ve signed said statement? At the university, it’s expected that all employees and students are tolerated and accepted. That means you’re not allowed to insult people. The university wants to be a ‘safe space’ where you choose your words carefully, so no one (him/her/them/white/black/etc) feels attacked.

The question remains to what extent a university can propagate a certain lifestyle or outlook. Isn’t that patronising? Or is it a good thing the university takes the lead on this?

No high workloads
UU staff and students are committed to their environment. Look at initiatives like the Green Office, for example, which is co-run by many volunteers, or a project like Incluusion, in which teachers assist refugee students voluntarily. Here, too, the question remains to what extent you’re allowed to talk to your co-workers or fellow students about actions or speeches you disagree with. If they’re doing things that are unhealthy or polluting, for instance. Or when a teacher states he feels there’s no such thing as high workloads at the university at all. And a student or teacher who’s religious – will they feel like they should keep quiet about that?

Call for responses
DUB would like to know how students and employees experience the vibe, mood, or atmosphere at the UU. Do you feel like you can be yourself unequivocally? Do people confront you about your behaviour? Can you give us examples? Or, perhaps, do you feel like a modern institution like a university should be able to demand students and employees lead by example? The responses will be included in an article. It’s possible to be quoted anonymously if you wish for your name not to be mentioned.

Send your response to the DUB editorial team

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