Pamphlets. They’re lying all over the campus just asking to be read. If you look in the pamphlet containers, you can see a whole lot of promotional material. Especially on fine days, when people thrust them at you as you come out of a lecture or just as you’re about to have lunch. Glow-in-the-dark parties, student subscriptions for Linda or a recruitment event: all highly recommended on glossy paper.
And members of ROOD, the youth wing of the Socialist Party (SP), also handed out pamphlets recently to promote an event: a debate on independent science. The university gave ROOD a severe talking-to after this activity because political parties (unlike student associations) aren’t allowed to distribute pamphlets in the Erasmus University grounds. The university has banned all politically inclined promotional material, the reason being to preserve its neutrality and to prevent a mess. Or so it says. But the SP youngsters feel they’re being muzzled. EM spoke to a number of students about pamphlets and the ban on political parties handing them out on campus. Do political pamphlets really affect the university’s neutrality?
Kilian Schaap (21), Business Administration and Philosophy student
“If the university really wants to be neutral, it shouldn’t impose any bans at all. The university is actually a government agency with political interests, which is capable of suppressing political activities in accordance with its own wishes. And the Executive Board’s definition of ‘political’ is very precise. After all, not all events organised by political movements have to be politically motivated. There’s no reason at all to be afraid that allowing political parties to promote their activities will give these parties too much influence on university policy. On the contrary, we’ve seen during the past decades that science has more influence on politics than vice versa. The university ought to allow a political week to be held on campus, as well as the recruitment events financed by big businesses. They should give political parties the chance to share their ideas at an info market, say one week a year. That’s really being neutral.”
Rosanne Baars (19), International Business Administration student
“I can understand why the university doesn’t let political organisations hand out pamphlets on campus. Apart from the fact that I don’t like pamphlets – if you want to find out more, you can Google it, can’t you? – there are more than enough pamphlets going around on campus anyway. Far too many, in fact. Instead of handing out pamphlets on campus, political parties could distribute folders in the letterboxes at student flats. The ‘university’s neutrality’ argument is a valid one and so is the mess, although I don’t think a few pamphlets would have enough impact to jeopardise this neutrality. Pamphlets advertising recruitment events are less likely to endanger neutrality because they’re study-related. They’re not directly advertising any one company.”
Robbin van Pelt (21), History student and committee member at Jonge Democraten (Young Democrats, D66 youth wing)
“Political pamphlets may seem innocuous, but this isn’t the case at all. The university has drawn up regulations to prevent politics and science from getting too intertwined with each other. The SP youngsters have placed themselves above these regulations with their activities. And I really don’t understand why they were handing out pamphlets on campus anyway. There are hardly any students among SP voters, and surely they can promote their debate just outside the university grounds? We [the Young Democrats] hand out pamphlets round about election time at the Kralingse Zoom underground station and at some of the tram stops. This means we don’t bother any of the students and we can reach our supporters effectively too. But we’ll still be handing out campaign pamphlets on campus all the same, provided the university gives us permission to do this. It’s understandable that the current ban doesn’t apply to companies, because the university can make unequivocal agreements with them. And although they may have a certain political colour, companies are mainly out to make money. Political youth wings, on the other hand, are promoting their ideologies in order to make converts.”