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Peter Debye was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1936 and he also briefly held the position of Professor in experimental physics at Utrecht University. That's why the UU named a research institute after him. But while the career of Debye propelled at the time of the Third Reich, the question is: should the name 'the Debye institute' be maintained?

Nobel prize laureate Debye was mainly an opportunist

In the spring of 2006 Debye became subject of debate when the historian S. Rispens in his book 'Einstein in the Netherlands' referred to a controversial letter written by Debye. In this letter, Debey, in his position of chairman of the German Physics Society, called upon all Jewish members to withdraw, and he signed the letter with 'Heil Hitler'.

The governing body of Utrecht University subsequently imposed that the physical chemistry research institute should no longer call itself 'the Debye-institute' for the reason that Debye, no matter how important an academic figure, could never be a role model because of his past. However, staff at the institute objected to the decision and challenged Debye's alleged role during the war.

Debye cannot be alleged to have had nazi sympathies or be accused of anti-Semitism. This is what Martijn Eickhoff of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) concludes in a study of Debye's career in Nazi Germany. The research was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Education after a request for it, proposed by the UU. The NIOD has now shown that Debye cannot easily be said to have or to not have been a collaborator. Rather, he was driven largely by motives of self-interest and academic considerations.

In view of this, Utrecht University's governing body has appointed a committee chaired by Jan Terlouw. The committee has been commissioned to consider the NIOD's findings and to advise on the use of Debye's name by the research institute by the end of January. The committee will also make recommendations to Maastricht University, where a chair and an award have been named after Debye.

<ASCII-MAC>'This is insane'

It might be expected that a recommendation to the University Council (U-raad) as to how employee participation should be implemented at University College Utrecht (UCU) has been written in Dutch. While the University Council will pass the letter straight on to UCU, communication between the college and the council is in Dutch after all.

However, the University Council has objected to the fact that the regulation for employee participation in UCU has also been formulated in Dutch. Couldn't the University Board do something about this? asked the University Council the president of the University Board, Yvonne van Rooy, in the meeting Strategy, Personnel and Students. In this way, many UCU members will hardly be able to make themselves familiar with their duties and responsibilities, as they speak very little Dutch.

Van Rooy agreed that "this is insane". Still, the University Board should not be urged to provide a translation of the regulation. This is the responsibility of the Dean of University College Utrecht, or the chairman of the University Council. Van Rooy has promised to send out a clear signal to them. Part of the University Council's report on this matter, could - exceptionally - be formulated in English, so as to provide for the UCU members.

Jekaterina Jaroslavceva (20; Latvian/Russian) studies Economy.

Why did you choose Utrecht?

It was the best option among the partner universities of my home university.

How long are you going to stay?

I am staying till the end of January - and I arrived in September.

What do you like most about Utrecht?

Definitely not the weather! And the geographical location of Utrecht in the centre of the Netherlands and of Europe is definitely a plus.

What is the greatest difference between your daily routine in your home country and here?

I am so lazy here! I have for example more classes there and spent most of the times the whole day at the university - instead of the few hours that I spend here at the university.

What from your home country would you like to import to the Netherlands?

Latvian black bread with nuts and raisins! And bottled carrot juice, which is originally Estonian, but kind of popular in Latvia as well and the best thing to drink in the morning.

What was the 'biggest adventure' that you experienced here so far?

Arriving here on the first day with all my luggage and then having to find the SSH office to get the keys to my flat was not as easy as it sounds. And I got fined for riding a bike without light. Not a real adventure - but my first, and hopefully last, encounter with the Dutch police....