Occupation of area in Minnaert Building terminated
Concerned students involved with End Fossil Occupy Utrecht (EFO Utrecht) have occupied an area in the Minnaert building out of protest from 8 May until 10 May. EFO Utrecht has drafted a manifesto expressing the request for an accessible and transparent university that breaks all ties with the fossil industry. The Executive Board understands the concerns of the students and has had several conversations about this with them. The following message provides an insight into how the university is working on these themes.
Scientific cooperation fossil industry
In order to make a transition to a sustainable society and to meet the global climate goals, it is crucial that the fossil industry becomes more sustainable. Utrecht University therefore collaborates with the fossil industry on various subjects. The condition for cooperation in current research projects is that such projects focus on development of knowledge to accelerate the energy transition, phase out fossil as soon as possible and to avoid further CO2 emissions. In addition, the principles of the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (de Nederlandse gedragscode wetenschappelijke integriteit) are applied in all collaborations.
Whether, to what extent, and/or under which conditions collaborations with the fossil industry are desirable, are questions that live within our university as well. The Executive Board and the University Council (our participation body) have therefore initiated 'deep democracy' sessions for students and staff to facilitate this debate on collaboration with the fossil industry. The content of these discussions will be used to draft a consideration framework for future decision-making on collaborations with the fossil industry. The first meeting was on 20 March, and the next will take place on 15 May. The Executive Board has also invited EFO Utrecht, among others, for both meetings. The goal is to have a draft of the consideration framework ready by 1 August 2023. That framework will also provide clarity on collaborations with representatives from the fossil industry for career days, excursions, guest lectures/research or other (recruitment) activities, organised by the university. This element has also been addressed multiple times by students in the past few days.
The university is currently working on an overview of current research collaborations with the fossil industry, their content, and their funding. We consider such transparency important. We expect to make this information publicly available by 31 May at the latest.
Until now, Utrecht University has chosen not to use the term ‘climate emergency’. However, we see that this has raises questions about the position of Utrecht University on the climate crisis. The fact that we did not use this particular term has given the impression that we do not consider climate change to be of great urgency or importance. However, this is a misconception. On the contrary, we endorse that there is urgency and a climate crisis. Our own researchers have been sounding the alarm about this for a long time as well. That is why our university’s anniversary (Dies Natalis) in March was dedicated to the climate crisis. Sustainability and the energy transition are therefore woven into our teaching, research and business operations.
As a result of our conversations, we realize that, so far, we might have approached the term ‘climate emergency’ too legally. Utrecht University itself is not in a state of emergency, but we see that as a result of climate problem there really is an emergency in some parts of the world. We have therefore chosen to use the term ‘climate emergency’ in our communications from now on, in order to make Utrecht University's position on climate change even more explicit. By doing so, we aim to match the words commonly used in society.
An accessible university
Utrecht University strives to contribute visibly to an inclusive community, a just society and to equal rights and opportunities for everyone. Therefore, the university actively invests in an environment that makes everyone feel welcome and part of the community.
On Wednesday 10 May, the occupation was terminated on the students’ initiative. The Executive Board looks back on three intensive days in which an open dialogue regarding these themes was accomplished.