Nijmegen is known for being left-wing and progressive. Is that starting to trickle down into the academic profile of our university? Joppe Hamelijnck of the student party De Vrije Student hopes to shed light on this issue now that Dutch parliament plans to launch a study on political diversity at universities.
Earlier this month it was announced that the majority of Dutch parliament members agreed that a study to determine the political leanings of universities is a good idea. The Royal Netherlands Society of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has therefore been tasked with developing a study on self-censorship and the lack of diversity in academia. When philosophy student Joppe Hamelijnck, president of De Vrije Student, read this, his first thought was: ‘Finally.’
‘Students should be able to develop their own political preferences’
‘It’s clear that this university incorporates its progressive, left-wing ideologies into its education. The texts students read, the guest speakers that are invited: none of these have a right-wing slant. Personally, I don’t feel a connection to scholars like these. You see it in subtle ways, like the jokes some lecturers make about Trump. They never made jokes like that about Obama.’
Do you notice Radboud University’s left-wing tendencies in other ways?
‘Take meat-free Monday, for example. The university is saddling its students with a moral conviction; namely, that it’s good to eat less meat. Another example: Jan Terlouw was invited to discuss climate change, despite there being plenty of scientists who have serious reservations about climate change. Those scientists are never invited to speak.’
Why is that a problem?
‘My point is that the university should create an environment that encourages academic exploration, instead of leading students down a specific political path. Students should be able to decide their own political preferences. Many of the students who come to Radboud University with no political preferences are likely to leave with left-wing sentiments.’
Scratching the surface
Hamelijnck is a philosophy student and a member of JOVD, the youth branch of the VVD, a Dutch right-wing political party. He regularly feels like the odd one out at the smallest faculty in Nijmegen which is also not particularly known for its conservative leanings. ‘At first, I was afraid I’d end up in a class full of tree-huggers. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. But when you scratch the surface, you find that most people are left-oriented.’
When the university added the women’s policy to its agenda, you fiercely opposed the measures to promote diversity, claiming that gender shouldn’t play a role in job applications.
‘And here I am advocating a different type of diversity. What I really want to know is whether the university is being hypocritical. If the study finds that the university is not politically diverse, will they introduce a quota? After all, the Executive Board seems to be a big fan of quotas. When it came to female professors, the board believed a quota could help to encourage diversity. So why is diversity not as important when it comes to political preferences?’
Are you calling for quota for right-wing scientists?
‘No, of course not. I don’t want job applicants to have to explain their political preferences. What they should be asked to explain is whether they’re prepared to teach in a politically-neutral way. Their preferences shouldn’t colour their teaching methods. And if Radboud University is indeed a left-wing stronghold, the very least the board can do is demand more broadly oriented education.’