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Government wants no consultation on Covid pass in higher education

The government wants to prevent employee and student participation bodies from having…

The Cabinet has drawn up a bill stipulating that universities’ representative advisory councils be prevented from having a say in the introduction of a pass serving as evidence that the bearer has been vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus in the higher education sector. If the bill is adopted, this would constitute a violation of a motion that was passed by the Lower House earlier in the year, which stipulated that students and staff be given veto power with regard to making access to the campus contingent on staff and students having undergone testing.

Decisions of this magnitude

According to Van den Berg, who emphasised that he was speaking in a personal capacity rather than as the chairman of the council, the Cabinet is shirking its responsibilities in this matter. “The government can do either of two things. Either they introduce a nation-wide policy and require all universities to implement 2G or 3G policies, subject to the Lower House’s approval, meaning that democracy has been served, or they leave it to the universities themselves.”

“The Cabinet wishes to leave the decision to the VSNU (Association of Universities in the Netherlands – ed.) and the universities’ executive boards. Since these are not democratically elected executives, a representative body’s approval is required to make sure that democracy is served in decisions of this magnitude.”

In other words, the Cabinet is opting for the only option that does not allow the academic community a say in the matter. “They’re behaving like a bunch of wusses. The government should be bold enough to make the decision on this itself and not saddle the universities with the burden of making the decision and then dealing with the ensuing backlash. What’s needed to reduce the infection rate is a nation-wide policy.”

Additional guards

Van den Berg also wondered how exactly the government wants the universities to check people’s passes. “How are universities supposed to do this? Are they expected to hire additional personnel to perform the checks, or do they expect lecturers to check hundreds of students before each lecture? And what do they want us to do if people just walk in without showing a pass? Do we stop them? Will that require additional guards?” He fears that checks will result in ‘enormous queues’. “A long discussion is to be had about all this.”

The bill proposing that representative bodies be stripped of their power to decide on the use of the app will be discussed in the Lower House next week.