This is a short post on trust and a goodbye letter to a polarizing debate. Last Tuesday evening I wrote my goodbye letter to the UvA employees who have been involved in the current protest from the beginning – 7 weeks ago. Ironically, right after I pressed the send button, I heard about a counter petition. In my opinion, it is good to have a dissenting opinion for the sake of the discussion – because what is there to debate about otherwise? Which makes me wonder: what is the current debate actually about? My feeling is that in the last two days the debate has shifted from a focus on mutually agreed concerns to strategy and horseshit. I sorely wonder whether that is good food for thought and a constructive dialogue.

One thing has become very clear to me. Before we can even think about continuing the dialogue about the future of the university and education, another important intermediate step needs to be taken, and that is: restoring trust. Currently, both parties in the discussion seem to focus on the negative. One party regards the other as intimidating, and the other fears repression. One side is framed in terms of obnoxious teachers and lazy students and the other side is framed as repressed conformists and greedy managers. Both accusing each other of holding oversimplified opinions with a high gut feeling. We must continue to focus on the arguments and assume good intentions of both sides, otherwise every sense of community is lost.

What strikes me the most about this protest at the UvA (and in other universities, and other public sectors) is that it seems to reflect the problems of the Dutch society in miniature. Lack of social and political trust has already been an issue for quite a while in this country. Could we as an academic community please set an example and show that we, as a community, can work together? I have a feeling that current actions of force – whether it is force to get in a building or get out a building – have led to (or even: sparked) a greater feeling of distrust. While that may be understandable, it now risks derailing the whole discussion.

In my opinion this would not have been necessary, but it happened. Shit happens. So please, can we get over it and focus on what we have in common: a desire for an excellent university, with excellent education and research.

For me, it is a temporary goodbye to the ongoing struggle. It is time to spend some time with my dissertation again, he has waited long enough.

#mutualtrust #dualaccountability #practicewhatyoupreach