A blindfolded Zaaier, packages with a lifejacket, plushies and a letter, and a pop-up park. Spontaneous demonstrations on the campus are rapidly removed.
In the past fortnight, WUR showed a clear policy towards spontaneous protests on campus. An unmanned pop-up park on the Gaia/Lumen parking lot that the New Mobility Wageningen protest group erected was removed and disassembled within a day. Earlier this week, the Zaaier in front of Atlas was blindfolded by climate protesters of Scientist Rebellion; a mere few hours later, the statue had been ‘freed’ of its blindfold. Yesterday, packages were placed on the campus with a life jacket, a stuffed animal and a letter. The protesters criticised the EU asylum policies, and the life jacket referred to the 400 people that drowned in the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea during their attempts to reach Europe.
The rapid removal of the packages yesterday raised questions. A sympathetic protest for which then initiators had announced that they would clear everything away themselves. WUR spokesperson Jan-Willem Bol: ‘Our campus is not public domain. We have house rules and policies to ensure demonstrations do not threaten safety. Hence, protests must be discussed before they occur so that we can agree on the time, place, location, form and contact persons.
Should that have been done, would a protest like this have been visible for longer? Bol: ‘It is difficult to answer what-if questions. However, after a protest is petitioned, we will see what possibilities there are. Two years ago, scientists formed a clock to call on the ABP pension fund to stop investing in illegal deforestation. The clock symbolised that time was ticking. We knew about their idea and gave them room to protest. More recently, in September 2022, there was a demonstration for better student housing in the Forum building. However, discussing protests beforehand does not mean permission will automatically be granted.’
Tongue-in-cheek protests have been removed in the past, also. An art installation that students made from the disassembled bicycle that belonged to former WUR president Louise Fresco (which she had donated upon her stepping down) was rapidly taken down. The installation was to symbolise that Wageningen lacks a holistic perspective. The piano with which Fresco’s administration was called into question was also removed from the campus.