This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by shinjinidb. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

For 2 Months, Amsterdam University Was Occupied By Students, For One Great Cause

More from shinjinidb

By Shinjini Devbarman:

A group of students and teachers are challenging the growing neo-liberalization of higher education in Netherlands. In Amsterdam University (UvA), dozens of students and teachers had been occupying the Maagdenhuis– the administrative building, since 25th February as a protest against an anticipated funding and resources cut to the university’s humanities department. Referring to themselves as De Nieuwe Universiteit (The New University), the student movement has garnered immense support from the academic community all around the world.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit: Guido Van Nispen

Lasting two months of occupation until they were forcefully evicted by the police on 11th April, students’ demands include greater accountability and democratization of the university decision making process. The students’ protest has led to the resignation of the management board chairwoman Louise Gunning as of 19th April. The administration has been receiving flack for months for the way they have handled the issue, filing lawsuits against students and sending police to evacuate the protestors.

The student occupation of UvA speaks of a deeper crisis in higher education not just in Netherlands but worldwide. Higher education worldwide has become over-financialised as market oriented managerial changes are being aggressively pursued by universities. With all the energy being directed towards pointless paperwork and implementing destructive workload on students as well as teachers, it seems like the university as an institution has lost sight of what it should be. Instead of providing a free environment for the exchange of ideas and opening room for dialogue, education and research has taken a backseat as commercial concerns have become the main focus of university administrations.

It is in that context that students in UvA have been compelled to take matters into their own hands and defend the importance of free education. The struggle is against what the Dutch call Rendementsdenken- a prioritization of profit maximization and efficiency, a rationality which has become the logic of rule.

As a consequence, the students’ demands on their website include greater democratization of university governance, transparency in the finances and the cancellation of the Profiel 2016 (Profile 2016) among other things. According to the Profiel 2016, the UvA had plans to make cuts in programs due to budget issues. In the proposed reformation, the humanities faculty was going to be the most affected with the resources being focused on career oriented programs. In addition, it also included plans to eliminate some of the language courses, much to the contempt of the students. The administration justified the cuts by stating that the enrollment in these “small languages” (language courses) were dismal. In reaction to this students occupied the Bungehuis- the humanities faculty building first on 13th February. As negotiations with the board of directors failed, the students were evicted by the police, which aggravated the cause of the students struggle and led to the occupation of Maagdenhuis.

This student movement is the most serious of the student struggle since 1969, when the Bungehuis was occupied by students demanding greater student and staff representation in the university governance. The occupation led to major legislative changes in the university, and perhaps its legacy itself is one of the reasons why the occupation this year has received such a positive response worldwide.

Apart from the cuts in the humanities programs, the administration also had plans to fire about 150 staff members, which includes everyone with a flexible contract. Not only that, there has also been a rumored deficit of 12-13 million Euros in the university finances, although the number keeps changing. Naturally the students became impatient with the sweeping changes that the administration had planned and were unwilling to discuss.

Meanwhile, the website of UvA’s faculty of Humanities section reads that it “…manages a broad array of study programmes and maintains a healthy financial position”.

The objective of the movement is to challenge the commercialization of the University. The logic of Rendementsdenken devalues the importance of areas of inquiry, as most courses in the humanities don’t directly translate into profit.

The occupation at UvA is only one in the wave of student movements across Europe. Over the recent months, the academic community in countries like Netherlands, Canada and UK has been fighting against the commercialization of universities. Equally strong is the occupation at London School of Economics that started March 18 raising a range of issues with the university administration like precarious work conditions and criticism against the “profit driven model of higher education”, to name a few.

The occupation at LSE has encouraged the protestors at UvA, as people are viewing this as a turning point in higher education worldwide. A kind of domino effect has started, and it is sure to make history when it all goes down.

What we see here is a fight to resuscitate a free academic space. The struggle is still on for a better university which focuses on educational values rather than financial gains. In coming together against the commercialization of education, they have become an important symbol of power.

Perhaps the best way to conclude would be in the words of the students itself:

We are not asking for a free University, we are asking for a free society. Because a free University in a capitalist society is like a lecture hall in prison

You must be to comment.

More from shinjinidb

Similar Posts

By Arun Kr Jaiswal

By Amrita

By Mohit Nimal

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below