Protesters are not rabble-rousers and administrators not detached bureaucrats

A sharp divide has emerged, marked by exaggerated and often hostile caricatures.

On one side, student protesters are seen as fervent rabble-rousers, their idealism mistaken for mere disruption. This overlooks their genuine concerns about human rights and ethical academic collaborations.

On the other side, university administrators are portrayed as detached bureaucrats, indifferent to the calls for justice in the Harmonie square and on Groningen streets. This caricature ignores the constraints they face in their roles.

Caricatures deepen the divide.

The protesters, with their passionate pleas for justice, are not disruptive radicals. They are driven by a desire to make a positive impact, addressing systemic issues and challenging injustices. Their activism is rooted in a deep sense of moral responsibility.

Similarly, administrators are not just detached officials but individuals making difficult decisions. They consider the long-term viability of the institution, the impact on stakeholders, and broader contextual pressures. Their choices are often constrained by external pressures and regulatory requirements.

Caricatures dehumanize. 

We have witnessed an institutional failure to engage with dissent constructively due to a troubling prioritization of order over dialogue

The dangers of dehumanization are evident; here and there. They make the news unbearable.

Here, police violence was used against student protesters demonstrating against the university’s complicity in international injustices. Videos and eyewitness accounts depict a troubling scene: students being forcibly removed and physically harmed, detained and injured, protesters clashing with police, and an atmosphere of fear and hostility.

This power differential, where some have the prerogative to bring in the police, is entrenching the divide. We have witnessed an institutional failure to engage with dissent constructively due to a troubling prioritization of order over dialogue, control over compassion.

To bridge this divide, it is crucial to acknowledge the power dynamics at play and commit to non-violent, empathetic communication that goes beyond caricatures.

In the face of genocide, one of the few things we can do is hold on tightly to our shared humanity. We need a culture of empathy instead of turning against each other with rage, judgment, weapons, and weaponized reason. 

By engaging with each other as complex individuals rather than caricatures, the university community can work towards solutions that honor our shared humanity. In the end, we are all alive together; we are all kin.

It is the failure to acknowledge this grounding reality that keeps us at war. Here and there.


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