Professor Barend van Heusden says teaching outside is ‘very symbolic’. ‘The government has left us out in the cold. Academics are always working late, and that just takes its toll. It’s time for people to become aware of the high work pressure at the university.’
He is teaching a first-year class on history and the theory of arts and media at the Grote Markt. ‘These students have only been here three weeks and they’re already part of a protest.’ On Monday, he e-mailed his students to bring warm clothes and a piece of plastic because they would have class on the steps of the VVV building.
Lecturers and professors in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Nijmegen, Leiden, Wageningen, Maastricht, and Groningen are protesting this week. They want to raise awareness of cutbacks, high work pressure, and large class sizes. WOinActie, the organisation behind the protests, wants the government to invest another 1.15 billion euros in academic education.
During his class outside, Van Heusden takes the opportunity to tailor his lecture to the environment. He looks at the Martini tower to check the time and uses it as an example: ‘Looking at the Martini tower, Plato would say: it’s an instantiation of a form.’ As he finishes his sentence, the tower bells chime. The class continues inside after forty-five minutes.
There were two more classes at the Grote Markt on Tuesday, and other outdoor classes will be taught throughout the week. They’ll be held at the Noorderplantsoen, the Harmony building, and the H.W. Mesdagplein. On Thursday, people from Arts, Culture, and Media will hold a silent read-in at the Academy building. The employees will occupy the steps to read, dressed in all black.
Student party DAG is helping the lecturers to organise the protests. ‘Lecturers are busy enough as it is, and they need all the help they can get’, says Jochem Dijkstra. ‘More and more lecturers are joining. They’re motivating each other’, says Koen Marée.
And the students? ‘They’re not affected by the protests’, says Dijkstra. ‘The lecturers will always put the students first. They’re the priority’, says Van Heusden.