TU/e Executive Board statement following occupation of May 11

May 15, 2023

Last Thursday, on the day of the rectorship transfer, there was an occupation action at TU/e.

Last Thursday, on the day of the rectorship transfer, an occupation began at the TU/e, the start of which occurred in a less than orderly fashion. It is an incident that the Executive Board regrets.

TU/e is wholeheartedly committed to the energy transition and contributing to solutions to climate issues, and is working on them every day. In consultation with many parties these themes have become a core part of the institutional strategy. We are in constant dialogue about the associated challenges with our students, our scientists, the University Council, and the world around us. Our students, in particular, keep us on our toes, and so they should. We appreciate that and act accordingly, as evidenced by several recent acceleration initiatives.

The Executive Board has also been in constructive dialogue with climate action groups for quite some time, and shares the urgency with these groups to ensure a climate-neutral world as soon as possible, despite points of disagreement on the best path to achieve the goal. We also engaged and remained in dialogue with University Rebellion, following previous protests, including an occupation that lasted a number of days in late 2022. That occupation was conducted and resolved peacefully; after all, we consider the right to demonstrate of great value.

Just last month, the Executive Board took the initiative to meet with a representation of the University Rebellion action group and gave a preview of the new addendum to the upcoming annual report, in which TU/e provides transparency on the extent of cooperation with industrial partners. In that meeting, University Rebellion welcomed the addendum and confirmed that TU/e is leading the way in the Netherlands with this transparency.

Against this background, therefore, the Executive Board was surprised by last Thursday's demonstrations. The door is and was open for conversation, and also for creating attention around the climate crisis by concerned students and action groups.

This protest took place on a very special day for TU/e, a day entirely dedicated to the farewell of the old rector, after eight years of the rectorship, and the reception in our community, and the installation of the new rector. Just prior to this, activists started an occupation targeting the large meeting rooms on floor 1 in the Atlas building while the reception of guests was taking place.

The Executive Board, immediately after being notified of the action, went to talk with the activists. In doing so, new demands, which went beyond previous demands, were handed over to the Executive Board. The EB indicated that it would not be possible to discuss the demands further on that day itself, given the program. In that conversation, explicit permission was given for the protest and two restrictions were verbally communicated: no action in the boardroom (this is a closed room where a meeting was going on at the time, which eventually had to be aborted due to the action) and not at night, for safety reasons. Nevertheless, the activists forced their way into the boardroom, without permission and despite the restrictions previously shared, past security guards standing in the doorway.

The pushing and shoving that ensued in the boardroom can be explained in the context of this sequence of events. We obviously do not represent a TU/e in which this is part of the normal forms of interaction. We therefore deeply regret it. The Executive Board stands for respect for each other’s vision and for valuing everyone’s integrity and safety.

We are ready to resume the conversation to work together toward the higher goal of realizing the energy transition and working on solutions for the climate problem.

Media contact

Ivo Jongsma
(Communications Adviser)