St Nicholas suddenly made an appearance at the meeting on Monday morning. With three black Petes who threw a handful of ‘kruidnoten’ into the room. Despite being delighted with the treats, we wondered why the Petes were black. Hadn’t the university ruled against having black Petes?
Yes it had, says press spokesperson Jacco Neleman. Apparently, the esteemed visit was part of an internal celebration within the Human Resources department. A few years ago, the university decided only to work with sooty-faced Petes during the official Sinterklaas celebration. “Obviously, not everyone received that message,” Neleman refers to the HR stunt. “Perhaps because only staff with small children are present at the official party in the aula.” HR staff were unavailable for comment about the incident.
The Pete debate has been going on for several years at EUR. In 2014, the Executive Board introduced Petes with sooty streaked faces along with Petes with black face paint. A group of EUR scholars also published a letter in the Volkskrant, in which they appealed for an open debate about Pete’s appearance. The Executive Board subsequently cranked up the debate even more. That resulted in the decision to ban Black Petes from the Sinterklaas celebrations.