Occupation of area in Minnaert Building Utrecht University
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 messages provide insights into how the university is working on these themes.
Update May 31, 2023, 4:00 pm
On Wednesday, 31 May 2023, the Executive Board provided a substantive response to the manifesto by email. The text of this email and substantive response can be read in the document 'Response to EFO demands 31 May' (pdf, 218kb).
The concerned students involved with End Fossil Occupy Utrecht who had occupied a space in the Minnaert building since Monday 8 May, ended the occupation Wednesday afternoon, 10 May. The Executive Board had several talks with the students on the matter. Central to these talks was EFO Utrecht's manifesto.
Anton Pijpers, President of the Executive Board, and Anneloes Krul, student assessor, have continued their dialogue today with students from End Fossil Occupy Utrecht (EFO Utrecht) in the Minnaertgebouw. During this conversation with students present, the use of the word “climate emergency” by Utrecht University was a topic of discussion. The following statement regarding this subject has been shared with the students, both in person and by e-mail.
Statement Utrecht University “climate emergency”
Previously, Utrecht University has deliberately chosen not to use the word "climate emergency”. However, we see that this has raised questions about the position of Utrecht University on the climate crisis. The fact that we did not use this particular word has unintentionally 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 researchers have also been sounding the alarm about this for a long time. 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 word "climate emergency" too legally. Utrecht University itself is not in a state of emergency. But we see that in response to climate problems, 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.
The group of students from End Fossil Occupy Utrecht, among others, spent another night in the occupied area in the Minnaert building. Again, the overnight stay was discussed in advance by the university with the students to ensure their safety. The night passed by quietly, just like the first night. Yesterday, the students presented a number of requests to which the Executive Board responded (see the update of 9 May 6:30 pm). Later on today, Anton Pijpers, President of the Executive Board, will visit the students to further discuss this.
The full Executive Board of Utrecht University and Student Assessor Anneloes Krul had a conversation together with students of End Fossil Occupy Utrecht (EFO Utrecht) today. They mainly focused on the manifesto prepared by End Fossil Occupy Utrecht, which included the topics of cooperation with the fossil industry, transparency and inclusion.
End Fossil Occupy Utrecht urged Utrecht University to meet the following two demands before 17:00h today:
- A ban on the presence of fossil industry companies at career activities such as company visits and career fairs.
- Declaring a climate emergency and call out for climate justice.
At this short notice, with regard to the demands of End Fossil Occupy Utrecht, we can indicate the following. Additional explanations on these points follow at the bottom.
- Before 1 August, we will share with our students and staff a draft framework on collaborations with the fossil industry and what conditions they must meet. We will also include our career activities in this framework. We will finalize this draft after the second ‘deep democracy’ session on 15 May, to ensure the ongoing democratic process around these questions.
- The university agrees on there being a climate crisis and that this is one of the biggest challenges we face. Our own scientists, too, are sounding the alarm on this. We feel great urgency to go against climate change and we are working hard to do so. This is woven into our teaching, research and business operations. Our scientists do not only provide insight into the actual scale of the climate crisis, they also contribute to solutions to counteract climate change.
- On or before 31 May, we will share an overview of our current collaborations with the fossil industry on our website.
- The head of our Sustainability Office was present at the talk today and is willing to talk further with EFO Utrecht about opportunities to better integrate ideas into our sustainability plans.
Scientific cooperation fossil industry
In order to make a transition to a sustainable society and meet the global climate goals, it is crucial that the fossil industry becomes more sustainable. This is why Utrecht University is cooperating with the fossil industry on various subjects. The condition for cooperation in current research projects is that these projects focus on developing knowledge to accelerate the energy transition, phase out fossil as soon as possible and do not contribute to further CO2 emissions. In addition, all collaborations follow the principles of the Dutch Code of Conduct on Scientific Integrity (de Nederlandse gedragscode wetenschappelijke integriteit).
The university is currently working on a comprehensive overview of current research collaborations with the fossil industry, their content and funding. We consider such transparency important. We expect to be able to make this information publicly available during the month of May 2023.
Deep democracy in consideration framework
To what extent are collaborations with the fossil industry desirable? And/or under what conditions? We as a university also deal with these questions. The Executive Board and the University Council (our participation body) have therefore initiated 'deep democracy' sessions with students and staff, to facilitate the debate on cooperation with the fossil industry. The content of these discussions will be used to draft a consideration framework for future decision-making on collaborations. The Executive Board has invited students to provide their input. The aim is to have a draft decision ready by 1 August 2023. The framework will also provide clarity on collaborations with the fossil industry for career activities organised by the university.
The members of the Executive Board, Anton Pijpers (President), Margot van der Starre (Vice President), Henk Kummeling (Rector Magnificus) and Anneloes Krul (Student Assessor), have continued the dialogue with the concerned students today. The concerns of those present about scientific collaboration with the fossil industry and the manifesto of End Fossil Occupy Utrecht were the main focus of the dialogue. More information will follow later today.
The group of concerned students of End Fossil Occupy Utrecht, amongst others, spent the night in the occupied area in the Minnaert building, as they previously announced. The overnight stay was carefully discussed with the university in advance and went by peacefully. The students acted responsibly and complied with the location’s safety measures. Utrecht University’s Executive Board understands and shares the concerns of those present and remains in dialogue with the students. Yesterday, Anton Pijpers (chair of the Executive Board) already spoke with some of the students. This afternoon, the Executive Board will continue the conversation and discuss the manifesto with them.
Concerned students and involved parties including End Fossil Occupy Utrecht (EFO Utrecht) are protesting at Utrecht University today. They are occupying an area in the Minnaert building and have written a manifesto demanding an accessible university that breaks all ties with the fossil industry. They indicate that the occupation may last for three days, from 8 to 10 May. Read the news item.