Last week, the independent journalistic platform of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) blacked out its website in protest against the suspension of the editor-in-chief following a conflict with the Executive Board and the Editorial Board about an article on a conflict of interest involving the new Rector Magnificus.

The editors of Cursor have demanded a new, independent Editorial Board and want to have a say in the appointment of the new editor-in-chief, if a new editor-in-chief were to be appointed. The editorial team also wish to revise the editorial statutes to safeguard its independence.

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Censorship in Eindhoven was about rector’s conflict of interests

University magazine Cursor wasn’t allowed to report on the alleged conflicts of…

Under pressure

The editorial team has received support from the Association of Editors in Chief of Higher Education Media (Kring van Hoofdredacteuren van hogeronderwijsmedia), of which EM is also a member, with regard to each of its demands. In a letter to the TU/e Executive Board, the Supervisory Board and the Editorial Board of Cursor, the Association stated that it is ‘shocked’ by the suspension of the editor-in-chief and by the ‘pressure exercised on the editorial team in advance not to publish certain articles’.

The statement of the Association furthermore states that ‘Eindhoven University of Technology appears not to take the independent provision of news within its own institution seriously, whereas we believe that an independent platform in Dutch higher education is crucial to any university (of applied sciences). We therefore support the demands that the editorial team posted on Cursor’s (blacked out) website on Tuesday evening’.

Fair and balanced

Last week, the TU/e’s Executive Board issued a response to Cursor’s website blacking out. The Board stated that it welcomes ‘critical reporting that is fair and balanced’ and has invited Cursor’s editorial team to engage with it in discussions.

The Association responded as follows: ‘While we applaud the fact that you recognise the importance of this aspect, this is not reflected in practice. If it had been, the disputed article would have been published online’. The latter was a reference to the article about a conflict of interest involving the new Rector Magnificus that caused the commotion. The article was, however, ultimately published in de Volkskrant last week.

Academic freedom at stake

The trade union FNV Education & Research is likewise concerned about freedom of the press in higher education. FNV Education & Research trade union leader Sander Wesdorp told the Higher Education Press Agency that “the platform of any university (of applied sciences) must feel free to write about whatever subject it wishes.”

He believes that an editorial team should be able to report on everything that happens at the institution with complete autonomy. “And if an editorial team believes that it is unable to do so, then as far as we are concerned, the academic freedom at the institution is at risk alongside freedom of the press.”

Wesdorp fears that the incident is part of a pattern of behaviour. “It has been our position for some time that the role of participation in decision-making should be reinforced. It is high time that the law on this issue be revised. Effective provision of news and information is an integral part of that.”

Wesdorp believes it would be prudent to introduce a statutory requirement that every university (of applied sciences) should have an independent news medium that is properly facilitated. “In such cases, a director who cannot bear criticism would not be able to cut off funds at the drop of a hat. This could be monitored by the Education Inspectorate.”


In the meantime, the issue has also had an impact on politicians in The Hague. MPs Peter Kwint (SP) and Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks) have submitted questions to the Minister and State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science in Parliament. They have asked the ministers to speak out on the role of independent journalism within universities in the Netherlands in general and in Eindhoven in particular. The MPs want the ministry to start an inquiry regarding ‘the allegations about the restricted journalistic freedom as well as to examine the extent to which freedom is being restricted at other academic editorial teams and platforms of universities of applied sciences’.