We realise that questions exist about our decision this past Friday to observe the ruling of the court and formally request the police to vacate the Maagdenuis building. In the following letter, we would like to explain our motives and reemphasise our ongoing commitment to the current talks on reform.
It should be stated clearly and unequivocally that we regret the events that transpired this past Saturday. The Maagdenhuis eviction resulted in 11 arrests, a wounded police officer and the ongoing detainment of six occupiers for obstructing the course of justice.
The eviction came after almost two months of occupation, first of the Bungehuis and then of the Maagdenhuis. The reason we decided to take this step requires a brief description of the events leading up to this past weekend.
During the Bungehuis occupation, talks were held with De Nieuwe Universiteit (DNU, The New University) after mediation by the mayor. A provisional agreement was rejected by the DNU’s general assembly. The DNU then lost a lawsuit: the court ordered the occupiers to immediately end the occupation and vacate the building. The DNU refused to abide by this ruling and continued with the occupation. The responsibility for finally bringing an end to the occupation fell to the riot police.
Then the Maagdenhuis was occupied. This time, we first chose to enter into long and extensive talks about the current concerns and not (make) an early end to the occupation. These were difficult discussions, in which it became evident that the DNU in particular is no easy negotiating partner – demands are formulated in an assembly and are then presented as ultimatums. And yet the many talks, also chiefly because of a collaborative effort with other parties and action groups, led to a glimmer of hope, a 10-point plan with proposals for the modernisation of the university. It also led to an agreement about the creation of two committees charged with elaborating this plan.
After this agreement, further talks were held with DNU about ending the Maagdenhuis occupation. Once again, the ritual repeated itself. First ultimatums were issued: members wanted their own rooms, indemnity and ownership of the hall. In the end, the UvA actually agreed to a number of points and managed to reach a provisional agreement on Tuesday evening. For the UvA, this was a huge step with a party that is no easy negotiating partner.
Despite this step, and all of the previous concessions, this provisional agreement was forcibly and publicly rejected, also to the surprise of members of the delegation with whom was spoken. The Board was accused of intimidation and ‘firmer measures’ were announced. The UvA’s true efforts and constructive attitude were misrepresented. With this, the belief that one could truly come to an arrangement with the DNU finally vanished – it was unclear exactly who spoke on its behalf and what group has the majority say at which moment. The UvA therefore decided to initiate relief proceedings to bring an end to the Maagdenhuis occupation.
The judge’s verdict was clear and unambiguous: the risk of allowing the festival to take place over the weekend is one that the UvA cannot take. Nevertheless, the question may be asked: did the UvA consider letting the festival take place, delaying the effectuation of the court order until after the weekend, and placing the responsibility for the event squarely on the shoulders of the occupiers? Yes, this option was considered. But in the end, a different decision was made.
In recent weeks, a number of incidents took place which proved that – however good the intentions – violent occurrences could not always be prevented. A combination of such incidents, the fear that the festival might still get out of hand, the responsibility that a board has and always should take in this respect, and the impossibility of making agreements with the DNU – all of this, in conjunction with the court’s ruling, left us no other choice.
Obviously, we regret the fact that we had to call on the police to vacate the building – by which it should be mentioned that the occupiers had the chance, also after the court’s ruling, to leave the building on Friday night.
In the coming weeks, we will meet with staff members and other parties to further discuss the reform agenda. We have fully committed ourselves to this in the belief that an important and fruitful change of the UvA has been initiated. We will continue on the current course with all those who are willing to take part in an open and constructive way in the decisions that have been made.
The Executive Board
Dymph van den Boom
Huib de Jong