How can universities discourage activist students? This is the key question addressed in the new MOOC ‘Breaking Up Peaceful Student Protests on Global Socio-Environmental Challenges’.
The course was developed in partnership with Groningen University, Erasmus University in Rotterdam and the University of Amsterdam. The partner universities will give guest lectures on topics such as ending the peaceful occupation of university buildings by students. ‘If you are tactically smart and keep on at them long enough, the police will come in the end,’ says Groningen guest lecturer Jouke de Fiets. ‘Police officers usually rather enjoy pulling students off the stairs by their ankles.’
In his experience, universities don’t need to worry about bad press. ‘You can trust the strong arm of the law to downplay the situation. Even if a lecturer is black and blue from the blows, the police will still tell the press the violence used was negligible.’
Applied research by his Rotterdam colleague Kate El Bynk supports this conclusion. She also has a tip. ‘Drop a hint to the police that there might be members of Extinction Rebellion, Occupy or Greenpeace among the demonstrators.
This series of lectures is not for people who are upright when it comes to their principles
That gives them a great excuse to intervene early and take a hard line. In our case, they said “Perhaps we intervened too early, but that also means it can’t get out of hand”. Brilliant, don’t you think?’
Wageningen experts will be in charge of the practical activities. They include sawing through activist equipment, unblindfolding statues at speed (who can set a new Wageningen record?!) and kowtowing to the fossil-fuel and meat industries. ‘Participants will be expected to demonstrate sufficient flexibility in a physical test,’ explains Professional Education coordinator Ben de Zaak. ‘This series of lectures is not for people who are upright or straight as a die when it comes to their principles.’