‘There is no time to lose’

End Fossil: Occupy confronts UU once more

EFO demonstratie juni 2023, foto DUB
The activists from End Fossil: Occupy demanding UU to finally take concrete steps against climate change. Photo: DUB

A group of about twenty activists enters UU's Administration building at 3:30 pm on Monday, June 12. In addition to picket signs saying things like "cut all ties with fossil fuels" and "get the shell out of Utrecht", they were carrying a table and four chairs, which they set in front of the building. Their purpose will only be revealed later.

Be brave
The first ones to be summoned in the burning hot sunlight were the university's rector, Henk Kummeling, and the student assessor Anneloes Krul. They talked to Tim de Winkel, from the action group 0.7, who sympathises with the students, whose demands included an end to the culture of temporary contracts for teaching staff. That's the cause De Winkel has been defending for years. 

Professor Joost Vervoort also encourages the occupiers, many of whom come from the Copernicus Institute, where the professor works. He's happy about the university's intentions but notes that no answer has been given as of yet about how the ties with the fossil fuel industry can be broken. That's why he keeps on asking the university to do so, with an eye on the future and the generations to come. "Be brave enough to take some steps."  

End Fossil: Occupy juni 2023, foto DUB

The Executive Board in 2024
That's when the use of the table and four chairs became clear. Four activists, dressed in suits, sit at the table. They represent the Executive Board of 2024, which regrets not having done more to combat climate change. "We should have known that the end of the world is near. We should have known that our land was going to die. We should have heard the world's cry for help. But we are listening now and we will join you in your protests. We want to ensure the university is democratic and everyone gets a say. Our institution will teach students about the climate crisis and take action. We will cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry, as well as with organisations and companies that violate human rights and don't participate in the energy transition. We're not just talking anymore, we're acting!"

The short enactment refers to several points made by the Executive Board in its letter to EFO, sent on May 31. The letter in question was an answer to the demands made during the three-day occupation of the Minnaert building, when the movement called on the university to sever ties with the fossil fuel industry, and be more transparent and accessible.

End Fossil: Occupy en Henk Kummeling, foto DUB

It's clear that the students find the university's answer rather meagre. In their view, the Executive Board is not decisive enough. And they don't just mean the contacts with the fossil fuel industry, which will be maintained for the time being, and the university's transparency, which is deemed as insufficient. They're also pointing out how democratic the system is, arguing that university councils have hardly any right of consent.

The next step was giving Rector Henk Kummeling the letter, in which EFO reacts to the answers given to the demands made during the occupation. EFO has chosen not to publicise the contents of the letter to make sure that the Executive Board has enough time to read it thoroughly.

After the demonstration, the rector asked to speak. He stated that he disagrees with the criticism of the university council, but he also thanked the students — not for the fashion sense of the board members of 2024, but mostly for being critical of the present Executive Board, keeping it in check.

Henk Kummeling spreekt EFO toe, foto DUB