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UG and city close deal with protesters after they occupied Academy building

The protesters who occupied the Academy building for eight hours on Thursday jubilantly left the building at 9:30 at night: the UG and the city had agreed to part of their demands.

The university has promised to improve their communication towards international students, they’ll provide more emergency housing for students unable to find a room, the price for a bed in emergency housing like The Village will be lowered from 9 to 6 euros, and the city and the UG will do everything they can to create more rooms at Zernike.

These are the biggest deals action group Shelter Our Students (SOS) reached with the city and the university. They also put out a joint statement with a clear message to the Dutch government: the lack of housing for international students is a societal problem that can only be solved if the university is given the tools to match student numbers to the city’s housing capacity.

Students cheer and clap as it’s announced that the city and the UG are meeting part of their demands.

The city takes a stand

Marinus Jongman, negotiator and spokesperson for SOS, is happy that emergency housing will be expanded, and that staying there will become cheaper. But Jongman feels the biggest victory is that Groningen has come together as a city to stand up to the government: ‘The problem lies in how things have been regulated in the Netherlands.’

Alderman Roeland van der Schaaf, who negotiated on behalf of the city, is happy the parties reached a deal that ended the occupation of the Academy building. ‘There were a few demands we could meet, but also several we were unable to agree to. Ultimately, we reached the conclusion that we agree on a lot of things’, he says.

Third campaign

The students were protesting the room shortage in Groningen. The students involved in the ‘March of the Homeless’ occupied the Academy building early in the afternoon, after a procession that took them through the city. Classes had to be cancelled. It was the third campaign SOS had organised in a week. On Friday, students set up tents in front of the Academy building and on Monday, they held up banners during a protest at the opening of the academic year.

SOS, a partnership formed by various youth and student associations, organised a couchsurfing campaign several weeks ago. Just like last year, there are many students, mainly internationals, who haven’t been able to find a room in Groningen.

Some of them have been staying in emergency housing set up by the city, but the 150 beds there filled up more than a week ago. The city doubled the number of emergency beds, but even that wasn’t enough.

Protesters wave the Groninger Studentenbond flag.

630 homeless students

In the meantime, 630 students who have yet to find a place to stay have signed up with SOS. While some of these students have since found a place in emergency housing, SOS have matched over 150 students with people who offered them a place to stay. 

The occupation was not supported by the student parties on the university council: SOG, Lijst Calimero, the Donut Party, and De Vrije Student. The parties share the protesters concerns but feel that the ‘campaigns greatly impact the existing relationships between the universities, the city, and the student organisations’. Interestingly enough, Lijst Calimero is actually part of SOS.

The occupation has blocked classes in the Academy building, which had only just started up after eighteen months of online education due to the pandemic, the four factions say. ‘So many students were raring to go back to class and finally get to know each other after eighteen months. This campaign is frustrating for many people’, says Marie-Cecile Hatzman, faction chair for De Vrije Student.

The demonstration in the Folkingestraat at the start of the afternoon.

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