Universiteit Leiden

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Four questions about why we’re holding a debate on our ties to the fossil fuel industry

On Wednesday 27 September we will be holding a debate for students and staff on our links with the fossil fuel industry in relation to the topic of sustainability. All students and staff of the university are cordially invited. If you’re still not sure about whether to attend, these four questions and answers may help you to decide.

1. Why should staff and students actually participate in this debate?

Because these ties are relevant to us all. It’s a complicated issue that affects many of us and elicits intense concerns and emotions in many staff and students. We therefore want to hear the opinions of all members of our university community.

2. Can the Executive Board not resolve this issue itself?

The Executive Board first wants to find out how students and staff are thinking about this issue. In a university like ours, it is naturally important to discuss such complex questions with one another. We hope to exchange ideas with many of you on 27 September, so that together we can gain new insights and knowledge. This will enable the university to determine its path for the future.

3. Can’t we just cut these ties, instead of holding a debate about them?

Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. As a university, we want to conduct research that provides a better understanding of the global climate question and to develop knowledge for a sustainable future. Much of our research in collaboration with the fossil fuel industry is therefore actually about sustainable energy. If these projects are radically stopped, valuable knowledge could be lost. Another point is that a university can’t simply prohibit its researchers from working with certain groups: this would be contrary to the principle of academic freedom. At the same time, however, this does not mean we can’t make new agreements about the parties with which we collaborate and the conditions under which we do this. These are dilemmas that we want to carefully examine with you all.

4. I’m not an outspoken activist or a climate scientist. Will my voice actually be heard?

Yes! Every student and staff member of our university can join the discussion. We want to engage openly with everyone about this issue, and your views and opinions are certainly important to us. The debate will not only offer the opportunity for protest voices to be heard, but also the voices of students and staff whose knowledge of the issue is still incomplete or who haven’t adopted a clear position yet. The lecture hall has plenty of space, so please register now. You will be very welcome!

Banner: Markus Spiske via Unsplash

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