Standoff enters Day 4 as protestors keep Univ. Amsterdam building

A barricaded protester leans out of the Bungehuis window covered by a scarf (photo: Hanna Daych / NL Times). (A barricaded protester leans out of the Bungehuis window covered by a scarf (photo: Hanna Daych / NL Times))

The occupation of the Bungehuis by students of De Nieuwe Universiteit (The New University) organisation continues past its 100th hour, with protesters showing no signs of leaving the University of Amsterdam (UvA) building. While the students maintain  they will remain in the building until the UvA responds to their demands, the university has issued an ultimatum, telling students to get out or face a lawsuit.

"We have no plans to leave," said the group's spokesperson to NL Times. "The university is afraid to talk about even the smallest thing. We've had no contact from the board, we're hearing about what they're saying only from the media." The spokesperson did not wish to publicly state their name.

However, the university said on Monday that it has "repeatedly attempted to engage in dialogue with the protesters," but that those attempts had failed.

"We have made an offer for an alternative location, said there wanting to go to the debate, but that is not accepted," said Louise Gunning, president of the University of Amsterdam Board of Directors in a statement. The university's alternative solution is to hold weekly, one-hour discussions of student issues at the SPUI25 facility immediately following board meetings.

"Meanwhile, people want to work, research is damaged, and classes are cancelled. research on damage and fall classes. That can't be," Gunning stated.

There were between fifty and sixty people still in the Bungehuis on Tuesday morning, of which one is a lecturer. Dr Rudolf Valkhoff from the Culture Studies department of the Humanities faculty have been barricaded with the students in the building since they entered early on Friday morning. According to the spokesperson, Valkhoff expects to get fired.

"The reason we are starting [legal] proceedings is that we find it unacceptable that hundreds of people are disadvantaged by a small group of activists," said Gunning.

The students inside the Faculty of Humanities building only found out about UvA's intended legal proceedings through media reports, the spokesperson claimed. The university has threatened to sue the students for their wrongful occupation if they do not vacate the building, but the student's remain undeterred. "It doesn't change our position", the spokesperson said. "Most people in the building were prepared to be arrested."

"Let's be honest, our demands are impossible" said the spokesperson, speaking of the group's call for democratization of the university. "But we did not expect zero communication and demonizing."

The occupiers encouraged the Ph.D. students who work in the Bungehuis to come into the building as the occupation continued on Monday, but the act was forbidden by the Dean, according to De Nieuwe Universiteit. "We encouraged everyone who needed the building to come in through the window," the spokesperson said, revealing that two Ph.D. students took up their offer and climbed into the building for work on Monday morning.

Despite the hostility coming from the university, the protesters have welcomed a strong flow of solidarity, the spokesperson revealed. Ph.D. candidates and UvA professors issued a statement of support for the protest and for the demands on Friday, with fourteen signatures representing their solidarity.

The organization also hosted a meeting for cooperating students on Monday in the Bungehuis. About seventy attendees from UvA and VU University Amsterdam, but also from universities in Nijmegen and Utrecht climbed into the Bungehuis through the windows to listen to lectures given by professors and to plan a national movement.

"Some of the people who came to the meeting stayed overnight," the spokesperson said with excitement. "It was energizing."

De Nieuwe Universiteit is inviting anyone who wants to join them for a meeting, lecture or sleepover to send them a message on their Facebook page or simply show up. "You can get in through the back of the building. there's always someone at the window, and there's a rising number of people coming to stay the night." A post on the group's Facebook page asks sleepover guests to bring mattresses.