Coca-Cola red and Socialist red?

Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.

Every once in a while, the discussion flares up again. To what extent can or should a university, a breeding ground for (independent?) scientific research, work together with the business world/industry/commerce?

At the opening of the academic year, rector magnificus Elmer Sterken announced that that relationship would be reinforced by the appointment of a dean of industry relations: professor Iris Vis at the Faculty of Economics and Business will be bearing that responsibility.

Some people see this collaboration as a blessing, while others, it turns out, see it as sacrilege. For two RUG employees, the appointment of this dean was reason enough to put pen to paper and send in an editorial to the UK, which we published on our opinion page. In this piece, they argue that the ties between the business world and scientific research are becoming too intimate.

To summarise: too much engagement will lead to the RUG becoming a Coca-Cola University. To illustrate this, we used a picture of the Academy building, which we had playfully altered to look like it was Coca-Cola red.

Socialist red

But according to several readers/Facebook and Twitter followers, that was not Coca-Cola red. It was socialist red. This was accompanied by the accusation that the UK was doing the dirty work of Emile Roemer and his associates.

It’s true that both writers are active Socialist Party members: one is an aspiring MP, and the other is president of the SP chapter in Groningen. They submitted their piece as university employees who are worried about the aforementioned developments, but also as people with particular political philosophies.

Does publishing their views turn the UK into the SP’s mouthpiece, as people suggested? Of course not. Humbug. It’s objectionable, even, because it’s too easy to stifle the discussion this way. Alright, I’ve said my piece, let’s move on!

Come on. Can we please have this discussion – especially at the university – at a different level, without being so narrow-minded?


The UK aims to provide space for your opinions and facilitate debate. We don’t care about people’s individual opinions, so long as they’re properly substantiated. I’d like to refer you to the contribution by professor Jeff de Hosson. He doesn’t agree with the RUG collaborating with the business world either, but his opinion is radically different from the SP’s. The UK welcomes that as well. It may feel redundant, but I’ll say it anyway: publishing his view neither makes us his mouthpiece, nor that of the business world.

So don’t hold back your approving or dissenting opinions: after all, what better place to have a discussion than a university? VVD blue, PVV orange, D66 green, Student & Stad yellow: all political colours are welcome. I personally promise that we’ll paint the Academy building in the corresponding colours.

The possible accusation that the UK is becoming a Photoshop university newspaper is something we’ll deal with when the time comes.

Rob Siebelink, interim editor-in-chief





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