Univ. Amsterdam occupiers ordered out of Maagdenhuis

Banners hanging in the Maagdenhuis (Picture: Twitter/@annliffey)Banners hanging in the Maagdenhuis (Picture: Twitter/@annliffey)

With additional reporting by Demid Getik

Protestors occupying the University of Amsterdam's Maagdenhuis building on the Spui for roughly a month were ordered to leave by 6 p.m. Wednesday after talks between them and the university's executive board broke down. The board had expected the occupiers, comprising students, researchers and lecturers, to peacefully leave the building Sunday evening after a small festival. Instead, the occupiers demanded the resignation of the board.

"The Executive Board therefore concludes there is no other way but to demand that the occupiers make an immediate exit of the Maagdenhuis," the university said in a statement. Eviction proceedings will begin as quickly as possible, should occupiers not leave. "It seemed that this could have been prevented with further negotiation, but unfortunately that is not possible."

The groups involved in the protest include De Nieuwe Universiteit (DNU), Rethink UvA and Humanities Rally. Occupiers took over the Maagdenhuis a day after they were evicted from the nearby Bungehuis, which was squatted for about two weeks.

The board was reportedly stunned by the announcement from the occupiers. "An agreement with the occupiers seemed within reach last night after an agreement between a delegation from De Nieuwe Universiteit and the Board of the University of Amsterdam," the university statement said. "The DNU backers, or some of the backers, ultimately decided not to accept this negotiated agreement, as revealed in a press conference this morning."

Wednesday morning press conference arranged by the Maagdenhuis protestors initially suggested the groups were on board to leave the building and continue discussions with the board to improve democracy within the academic institution. However, the protestors instead alluded to staying in the building longer and taking part in "new, tougher actions" against the university.

Protesters called the situation a stalemate, caused by "intimidation" from the university administration, they said in a statement. They said that over the course of two months the board had agreed to only minor concessions, which cannot be accepted by the DNU. The university's executive board has said that their 10-point plan addresses many of the protestors' concerns.

The DNU demanded that there be "no legal, disciplinary or academic measures taken against students and staff involved in the protest," that the "DNU maintain a constant presence in the Maagdenhuis," keeping the Maagdenhuis a safe place "free of discrimination and surveillance." It also demanded that the building's ground floor "remain available as a public space for organizing debates, lectures, discussions and other events relevant to the broader academic community."

These statements were made alongside other demands that have remained consistent since the beginning of the occupation. They concern a more democratically run university, the restoration of humanities programs due to be cut in the coming years, provisions for low-cost housing, consultation with students about joint research with other academic institutions, more money for research and canceling the proposed 50-million euro sale of the Bungehuis.

The group planned to hold a Festival of Sciences and Humanities in the Maagdenhuis this weekend, an event where the questions of the future of the university and education will be central. Hundreds were expected to attend, they said. The university's executive board claims the occupiers were to vacate the building after the festival.

"After six weeks, and after much discussion was achieved, the time seemed right to talk about ending the occupation of the Maagdenhuis. The security situation in the Maagdenhuis has recently deteriorated," the university said. "The [University of Amsterdam] is also concerned about the condition of the property, the further increasing damage to the property and the accessibility of private, sensitive files."

The DNU stated that as of Monday, it will switch to a different tactic of conducting the protest. Details of the new method of protesting were not provided.