‘Conspiracy professor’ Tjeerd Andringa says he has always tried to keep his own opinions out of his feedback to students. However, he says, ‘I may have crossed the line here and there’.
By Christien Boomsma en Alessandro Tessari
After the media storm of the past week, Andringa responded to questions about his course Systems Views of Life in an online press conference this morning. Both the course and the lecturer were suspended after an article in UKrant revealed Andringa not only believed in the conspiracy theories he used for his course, but also calojed students into adopting his views.
‘Students have been very happy with the course’, he stressed many times during the conference he had held via BlackBoard Collaborate. ‘It teaches them life skills that help them throughout their lives.’
He said he had very few signs of students being unhappy with the course or the feedback they received. Except for one student, who called his comments on her work ‘triggering’, ‘disrespectful’, and ‘unsafe’. However, she did tell him that she ‘loved the course’.
Andringa affirmed that the board of examiners had been warning him for years that something was awry. There were problems with grading, which did lead to eventual adjustments.
He refused to distance himself from the ‘alternative media’ he refers his students to. When asked about it, he said the difference in reliability is ‘your assessment’. ‘I must say that they do their homework extremely well and dedicate a crazy amount of time to putting together information’.
On theories like vaccination causing autism, he said that it was important to address ‘ongoing research’ in his class. ‘Not all vaccinations are positive’, he said. He admitted he had said to students that he would ask his doctor to inject him with saline if covid vaccinations ever became mandatory. ‘That was not a smart thing to say. But the real reason is that we’re still working on safety trials for the vaccines.’
In giving feedback to his students, who are mostly first-years, he can be harsh. ‘I give a lot of feedback, too’, he said. ‘And sometimes I get tired and may have crossed the line.’
He has never wanted to convince his students, he stressed. ‘The point is to make them aware of the quality of information they are getting. Society provides one perspective, I provide another. But don’t overestimate my influence there. It is my voice against the mass of society and these students are very smart and capable young people.’
An investigation into what happened during Systems View of Life should be completed before the end of the academic year. ‘But student complaints were marginal. In the beginning, I made worse mistakes than now.’