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New Year’s speech 2023 & Meijers Medal

On Tuesday 10 January, the Meijers Lecture was held followed by the New Year’s reception in the restaurant of the Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw. Dean Joanne van der Leun opened the reception with a New Year’s speech. The following is a short overview of the event.

While looking ahead to a wonderful year filled with education, research, and impact, Joanne also mentioned politics and society in her speech, and how academia is often viewed with suspicion.  

‘We try to show what it is we do as universities and what the impact is, but we find ourselves in a society that has become polarised and in which every little thing is blown out of proportion on social media. Some of us find ourselves in the thick of it on a regular basis, and others have opinions about that. We are also living in times when facts are contentious and, also in our own community, there is a wide range of very divergent views. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s nothing new, but it is a challenge to keep the dialogue moving and to continue together in the same direction.’

Joanne emphasised that we should not forget that there are many changes underfoot and that there are also good sides to this: ‘No change without fuss.’

Photo: New Year’s speech by Dean Joanne van der Leun

As a Faculty, we always have a lot of reasons to celebrate too. Joanne pointed out that besides our successes, these also are the daily things we have been doing for a long time and that nobody really ever mentions.

‘Being there for each other is not always easy. Helping out when someone is ill or when things become a bit overwhelming. Keeping on trying when things do not come naturally. Lending an extra hand to a student who is struggling. Making sure everyone is invited, that the technology is working, and that there are sandwiches and drinks at the restaurant. All that and so much more is what makes a faculty a community and that is largely based on accomplishments you could see as normal or mundane. It all seems so ordinary, but it is not.’

Important factors in being happy at work, according to Joanne, are our colleagues and the communal atmosphere and culture. And although you would never consider them to be special merits and there are no prizes or badges for it, she says:

‘Apart from the special merits we also need the ordinary, mundane merits! They are the glue of the community that keeps us together. They give us fulfilment in our work.’

The original Meijers Medal

Welcoming Mrs Caroline van Oyen was a special moment. Mrs van Oyen is the widow of the late Mr A.R. Meijer, the former director of our Faculty. He was also the initiator of the Meijers Medal, which was named after Eduard Meijers, and the driving force behind the Cleveringa Lectures at our Faculty. Mrs Caroline van Oyen donated the original Meijers Medal to Leiden Law School.

It is a great honour, according to Joanne, to be able to put the original medal on permanent display in a showcase at the Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw. All those who are interested can take a look in the Cleveringa Lecture Hall, where this special gift will be on display as of today, 10 January 2023.

Mrs van Oyen had previously loaned the original design of the Meijers Medal to the travelling Cleveringa exhibition where it was displayed, for instance, at the Old UB and the Memorial Centre Oranjehotel in Scheveningen. That exhibition was organised by Marten van Harten, an external PhD candidate who is writing a historic portrait of Professor Meijers. He also provided the accompanying text that is displayed next to the Meijers Medal.

Photo: From left to right: Joanne van der Leun, Marten van Harten, Caroline van Oyen, Stefaan Van den Bogaert

Joanne thanked Mrs van Oyen for her trust:

The names of Eduard Meijers and Rudolph Pabus Cleveringa will for ever be connected to the Faculty and we are delighted to have these tangible memories here with us.’

Photo: Mrs Caroline van Oyen with the Meijers Medal
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