For the third time, OccupyEUR occupied a space on campus. Although it came as no surprise this time (9 May had been on the agenda of all involved for a while), the protest followed a similar pattern to the previous two times. There was much merriment and playful action in the hall in front of the auditorium. The 1970s were nothing in comparison. Until at the end the police got involved again and the protest ended grimly, just like the first time.

The protesters’ demands were also still the same: as their main demand, the severing of all ties with the fossil industry, as well as a wide range of social ills that the university must end, according to the protesters. However, a few specific demands were added. But again, no proper conversation took place between the protesting students and staff and the Executive Board.

It reminded me of an age-old Dutch saying, which can be roughly translated as: they drank a glass, took a piss and everything remained as it was. Very unfortunate.

The board didn’t get beyond asking for the third time if a representation of the protesters wanted to sit down with them. While OccupyEUR boasts of not being an organisation according to a classical hierarchical organisational model, thus not being able to delegate representatives. And so, everything remains as it was.

Or does it? The university did introduce and announce accelerated measures on a number of issues. Like the plant-based campus, energy-saving measures, and the announcement of fourteen dialogues on sustainability.

It won’t be enough for the OccupyEUR protesters, and perhaps it shouldn’t be because change is slow and the university’s ties to the fossil industry remain unaffected for now. So, the pressure remains on.

What does surprise me is how statically OccupyEUR itself is acting. As mentioned, the protests are peaceful and playful, but as yet not very inviting towards the wider university community. The group during the occupations has hardly grown after three times. Surely you should be able to activate both students and staff to join the protests? I don’t believe that commitment to climate issues and sustainability does not resonate with a wider group.

Why doesn’t Occupy engage with their peers from, say, the Recruitment Days who still invite the Shells of this world for talks, workshops, and business presentations? Why not invite researchers working with the fossil industry to hear each other’s side of the story? Try to bring about change where it happens: in education and research. Especially if you are averse to hierarchy, you should expect salvation not from a board but from the people themselves.

Illustration fossil companies x EFR and STAR samenwerking fossiele industrie_Migle Alonderyte

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