‘We don’t want to occupy, we just want to demonstrate peacefully’

A strike organised by students of the University of Groningen was held in front of the Academy building.

More than two hundred people came to support social safety expert Susanne Täuber and express their dissatisfaction with how UG addressed recent cases of sexual harassment at the university. 

Mid-protest, organisers announced the court’s verdict about Täuber’s dismissal by UG, after which she thanked the crowd for its on-going fight for women’s rights and received heartfelt hugs from UG students and staff.

Among the speakers was also Alice, a Chinese PhD student who had been raped by a visiting scholar, on which UKrant previously reported in January. Her speech was followed by other stories of people who shared personal who struggle with sexual harassment both in- and outside the university environment.

Struggle

The organisers picked International Women’s Day on purpose, to emphasise the feminist struggle and urged everyone to wear purple as a sign of solidarity. ‘Although the university celebrates International Women’s Day, there are places where the university lacks to make the university safe for marginalised people,’ said Charvi, one of the organisers, who is also a member of the Groningen Feminist Network. 

Charvi also felt disappointed that the university locked the main door of the Academy building. ‘They refused to support us or provide us with power outlets. Our aim was a peaceful demonstration and not to occupy university space or prevent people from working.’

‘Break the silence’

International relations student Kick van der Lei and his friends skipped an economy lecture to participate in the demonstration and grabbed signs from the organisers. The one he is holding says ‘#LIFT THE RUG’. Kick wanted to show his support for people who would be speaking – by listening.

Psychology student Mariama Gibba can’t believe it’s 2023 and the world ‘still has problems with sexual harassment’. She never even questioned whether to go or not. She is wearing a purple knitted hat and holding a purple tulip, given to her by a stranger.

Many speakers publicly shared their experiences with sexual harassment. One of them is Mariia Abdurashitova, an international relations student from Russia who also serves as the non-EU international representative on the UG’s university council. After telling her story about being groped by a fellow student at a seminar and university not providing sufficient support, Mariia is worried about losing her grant that she receives from her UG council position.

International European law students Bara Libal, Milena Kubicz, and Merle Pannenborg, and Sara Molinari from international human rights law came to the strike as a committee to hand out flyers for their upcoming Amnesty International event about women’s rights in Gambia. ‘The university is hiding behind the face of Aletta Jacobs instead of actually addressing the real issues of sexual violence’, says Bara.

Giulia Astori is wearing a striking purple eyeliner, she came to raise her voice along with other people. Hoping for real change, she wants the UG to take accountability for their behaviour instead of making the situation less important than it is. ‘I hope they will actually hear what we have to say.’

Dutch

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