Teachers and Students Together

I arrived at the Maagdenhuis. The students were packing up the few personal possessions they had. No one, myself included, seemed to know what we should do. Prof G and Assistant Prof E arrived. E got us some coffee. We began talking with the students. We decided that the festival would go on but now outside. We left the Maagdenhuis.


I stood on the steps with my colleague and officially opened the Festival of Sciences and Humanities. I introduced our first speaker, my colleague from political science. He began to talk about imagination and the political. It became a conversation. Another colleague joined us. We were four on the stairs, talking about imagination, the relationship between the vision and the material; young Kyrgyz women, and then the French revolution. We were surrounded by students. Every once in a while one of them would take the mic and reflect on the university, the problems with it, the happenings of the last weeks, and of course, the CvB.

The first police vans arrived. Rows of police marched down the street in front of us.

I placed my hand on Colleague N’s and whispered in her ear. “I’m afraid”.

“Me too,” she answered.


I found it hard to keep talking. I lost track of the ‘lecture’ I was giving. I looked to my left and there stood Student M. I looked him in the eyes and silently willed him to be my classroom full of students. The more I stared the more I forgot the police that continued to fill the square. I found my words. I taught.

Not long thereafter, Student M, in the square, was picked up by four plain-clothes cops. They grabbed hold of each of his limbs and held him suspended in the air. They took him away.


We moved our festival, our classroom, downstairs and across the street onto the square. I looked at G.

“Professor G, you study medieval history, what was a medieval university really like?” G began to talk and we began to learn.


We decided to move back towards the Maagdenhuis. Our backs to the wall with a ring of students, teachers, and PhDs around us, the four of us kept talking. When we faltered, the students encouraged us: “Keep teaching us. Continue with your lesson”.

My colleagues and I stood in front of our students as the police marched up the square. We kept lecturing, hoping our authority would protect them. When the police pushed others away and came close enough to reach me, students moved in and stood between the police and me.

The plain-clothes police never said a word to me. Two of them grabbed my arms. A student and Prof G grabbed my leg. I was being pulled from both sides. I looked at the student and was about to ask him to let me go, when he must have lost his grip. My shoe fell off and the police, twisting my arms, turning my wrist into an unnatural position, and pressing so hard on my body that it bruised, dragged me away. I told them to let me go. I told them it hurt.

I was forcibly dragged away by plain-clothes cops and condescendingly referred to as a little girl.


I had run to the other side of the square when I saw students being carried off down a small ally on the west side of the Maagdenhuis. What would happen to them down there? Would they be hurt? Who would see? I looked for journalists…

The students and Prof G had been kettled to the middle of the square. There was pushing and shoving, beating with batons, movement everywhere. People fell and were nearly trampled. I stood very close to Colleague P, silently willing him to protect me and help me know what to do.

The horses came. I watched as people were pushed around near, next to, and into the horses.

And then, I don’t know how it happened. I was trapped in a ring of horses and police. I was alone. I walked towards the police and asked them to let me out. The police turned me around and shoved me toward the horses. I turned back and found a female police officer. I looked her in the face and asked again for permission to leave, to walk between the police and leave, they refused. They told me to go the other way, toward the horses.

I said, “There are horses there, I don’t want to walk between the horses.”
The forced me to walk between the hind legs of two horses standing ass-to-ass.


Later when the students sat on the square and the horses moved in front of them, Colleagues G and P moved themselves and stood between the students and the police. I ran through the crowds to try to reach them. A journalist got angry as I tried to maneuver passed him. “I was here first” he said.

“I’m doing something else,” I said. And I pushed him aside.

I found myself standing next to G, horses to my back, students before me. Before I knew it E was next to me, then N. And then we did what university teachers do best – we started talking and we didn’t stop, not until the police went away.

This Auto-Ethnography of the Maagdenhuis Eviction presented on April 13th, 2015 in REC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *