To be beaten with batons and be forcibly dragged out of buildings by the police

Assistent professor Mando Rachovitsa watched with horror when the police ended the occupation of the Academy building two weeks ago. ‘This is not how academia should respond to situations like this.’

For the past six years I’ve had Miffy in my classroom in Groningen. As you know, Miffy does not grow up, which is why she keeps reappearing at the lectures. Miffy has already graduated twice.

Miffy doesn’t mind since this is certainly an upgrade from being at the seaside, at school, or at the farm. And I love having Miffy in class. The cool thing about Miffy having followed all my classes is that she has heard everything I can possibly offer.

Miffy knows that people are entitled to exercise their right to peaceful assembly. Sometimes exercising this right means causing an inconvenience and this goes to the core and purpose of having this right.  

Miffy does not understand why the university felt it needed to call the police to deal with fifty students peacefully protesting at the Academy building from noon to 8 o’clock in the evening.

Why are the police threatening and using force? Why were there police there?

Miffy is at loss about why students were dragged out all the way through the side door of the Academy building (a considerably longer distance) and not the main doors.

Miffy is triggered by watching at least two recorded instances of people being hit by batons in an unprovoked manner for merely standing outside the Academy building. Why are the police threatening and using force? Why were there police there? Miffy does not see how this is a necessary and proportionate response to a peaceful protest.

More importantly, Miffy does not understand why fifty students keep knocking at the door of the board of directors and the board does not answer. Fifty students want to be heard and seen and we do not hear them or see them – not really.

Yesterday, I found Miffy standing outside one my classes. The six years of my teaching and learning at the University of Groningen that she absorbed stared up at me. I told Miffy everything that I find difficult to share with the rest of my students. I told her that I feel that my efforts of six years of trying to create in every single lecture and seminar an environment of trust, discussion, care, and disagreement are down the drain.

I taught human rights law in Qatar for four years and yet I do not feel safe right now

I remind Miffy that I am a grown-up woman, having travelled a large part of this planet and having taught human rights law in Qatar for four years and yet I do not feel safe right now.

I tell Miffy that for some time now, especially in light of the circumstances of how the university and its bodies have handled the firing of Dr. Susanne Täuber and the reactions to this, I see myself and other colleagues censoring ourselves. It is the exact type of self-censorship that I subjected myself to in Qatar.  

I tell Miffy that we have failed our students. I am sorry. This is not how university is supposed to function and this is not how the academic community is supposed to react to and handle these situations.

I tell Miffy to complete the social safety survey and take part in the UG’s social safety campaign. Miffy starts laughing – a violent laugh that echoes in the arches of the Harmonie complex. It’s the violent laugh of a seventy-year-old woman. Because Miffy did grow up.

Dr Mando Rachovitsa is assistant professor of international law, Faculty of Law

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