Communists not allowed

Participation of far-right party in orientation week causes controversy

UIT 2019, at Griftpark. Photo: DUB

Information markets are one of the most traditional events Dutch universities hold to welcome first-year students. That's where the newcomers can get acquainted with all the fraternities, sororities, sports groups and other associations they might be interested in joining. Each organisation has a stand where they hand out flyers and introduce themselves to prospective new members. Sometimes, political parties are among these stands.

Inclusive VU Amsterdam
But who gets to participate? At VU Amsterdam's market, the local student union SRVU noticed that the youth division of the far-right political party Forum for Democracy had their own stand. Their participation goes against the university's ambition of creating an inclusive environment, writes vice-president Robyn Mills in the university's magazine, AdValvas. “This goal is instantly undermined by allowing a fascist, racist, Islamophobic, and homophobic party to be present at the information market.”

Reacting to the criticism, the students who organised the market at VU Amsterdam explained their reasoning: in their view, they couldn't ban Forum for Democracy because the left-wing party Green Left (GroenLinks) had a stand as well. VU's Rector, Jeroen Geurts, says to AdValvas that he only heard about the decision after the market had already taken place. “We didn’t have a sufficient overview of who would be present at the market.”

He isn’t sure yet whether FvD's youth division will be allowed to return next year. He stresses that the university does strive to be inclusive, "which means we don’t accept the exclusion of groups or people because of their faith, sexual orientation, gender, or whatever. I emphasise this in every speech I give. So, I do understand the concerns. At the same time, Forum for Democracy is a democratically-elected party, just like GroenLinks, which was also at the market.”

Communists denied
Things went differently in Utrecht, where the youth movement of the New Communist Party (Dutch acronym: CJB) was told right off the bat that they wouldn't be welcome at the information market for new students.

They were told that their group was not fit for UU's Introduction Week (UIT), “where everyone should feel free and comfortable”. One of the reasons mentioned was the war on Ukraine.

CBJ classified the incident as "appalling," since they have been against the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the start. They add that there is no communist power involved in the war. “In fact, it’s a consequence of the counter-revolution in the formerly-socialist countries!”

UIT's board has agreed with the university and the university of applied sciences that they will evaluate the issue. “We will verify whether we made the right decision,” the board told DUB.

Last year, Forum for Democracy's youth division did have a stand at UU's information market. This year, however, the party did not sign up for one. Forum for Democracy does support Russia's invasion of Ukraine.