Universiteit Leiden

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Lipsius building occupied by End Fossil

Members of the End Fossil climate action group, including students from Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam, have occupied two rooms in the Lipsius building at the Faculty of Humanities today (23 November 2023). They are calling attention to the climate crisis. We will keep you updated here.

Update Friday 16.45 hrs
Executive Board: understanding for the protest, but evacuation was necessary

On Thursday evening, the Executive Board of Leiden University had the Lipsius Building evacuated. At that time there were about 20 members of the End Fossil climate group on the premises, who had occupied two rooms in the building and were unwilling to leave.  

The evacuation by the police proceeded without incident. The activists had ignored several requests by university staff to leave the premises peacefully. It was for this reason that the choice was made to resort to such a serious measure.

The EndFossil group – students of Leiden University the TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam -  wanted their occupation of the building to draw attention to the climate crisis. At around 10.45 hrs. some 30 people entered the Lipsius Building, where they occupied two rooms on the first floor. Later, the group increased to around 50 people.  

Not permitted
From the moment that the activists arrived, there was regular contact between them and representatives of the university. The group was informed at the outset that their action breached the regulations. There are no circumstances in which the occupation of buildings is permitted. The university also made it clear that the occupation must end at 17.00 hrs. This was because of the risk of disturbing the public order, about which the university had consulted with local authorities.

Discussion with the Rector
Halfway through the afternoon, Rector Hester Bijl paid a visit to the occupiers. She discussed with representatives of EndFossil the demands that the group had set out earlier in the day. EndFossil did not want the university to enter into any new collaborations with the fossil industry, and demanded that representatives of this industry would no longer be involved in cultural or career events. The Rector explained that the Executive Board shares their concerns about the climate and naturally respects freedom of speech. However, she also indicated that the Board cannot accede to these demands at the present time.  The Executive Board has said earlier that they will publish a statement about collaboration with the fossil industry in February 2024. The issues that are the subject of the demands by EndFossil will be addressed in this statement. The process of arriving at this statement is currently in full progress.

Premises handed over to the police
When appeals to the occupiers to end their action were ignored, the Executive Board took the decision at the end of the afternoon to officially hand over the premises to the police. This is necessary in order to proceed to an evacuation. At 17.35 hrs. the police entered the premises and the demonstrators were escorted from the building. Almost all the occupiers left the building without offering any resistance, and within ten minutes the Lipsius Building was empty. No arrests were made.

No other option
The Executive Board reflects on the occupation and evacuation with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they regret having to resort to such a serious measure, but because of the group’s refusal to leave, there was no other option than to have the building evacuated.

The Lipsius Building (along with all other university buildings) was open again on Friday at the regular times.

Update 18.00

  • The Lipsius building has been cleared by the police. The evacuation was without incident. 

Update 17.35

  • The Lipsius building was handed over to the police at 17.35 by order of the Executive Board.

Update 17.15

  • Rector Hester Bijl met with the activists at the Lipsius building and had a good conversation with them. She told the activists that she greatly appreciated their concerns about the climate crisis. She said she understood that today’s occupation at the Lipsius building stems from desperation and has great sympathy for the way they are fighting with heart and soul for the climate. Bijl again explained the university’s decision-making process. Once this process is completed, the university will issue a statement on collaboration with the fossil fuel industry in February 2024. Bijl informed the activists that it was precisely because of this process that they could not respond to their demands now. She said she did want to continue the conversation with the activists.

Update 17.00

  • The Lipsius building is closing at 17.00 and the occupiers have been urged to leave the building immediately.

Update 15.00

  • Rector Hester Bijl has offered to talk to the activists and is currently doing so in the Lipsius building.
  • The occupiers were informed earlier this afternoon that they have to end their occupation by 17.00.
  • The Executive Board has decided to close all Leiden University buildings at 17.00.  

The demonstration is not permitted because it was not registered with the university, which is required by our house rules. We never permit the occupation of our buildings anyway. The Executive Board shares the concerns about the climate crisis and respects people’s freedom of expression. Due to the risk to public order, the university, having consulted with local authorities, plans to end the occupation this afternoon. We are going to discuss this with the occupiers.

Teaching and research in the Lipsius building will continue as much as possible today. Keep an eye on the faculty/your programme’s communication today for any changes.

The university will ensure that the activists follow the rules so the building remains a safe place to work and study. The protesters were personally handed the rules this morning.

Concerns about the climate crisis

The Executive Board shares the protesters’ concerns about the climate crisis. These concerns were also expressed during the debate with our staff and students on 27 September where we exchanged opinions on collaboration with the fossil fossil fuel industry. We are eager to continue this discussion with our students and staff.

The Executive Board is continually looking for ways in which we as a university can make a positive impact on a sustainable world. Our scientists make important contributions to climate research and we are committed to sustainability in our teaching and operations.

Criteria for collaboration

We are also currently working on clear criteria for collaboration with external parties such as the fossil fuel industry. We will make a decision on this as soon as possible. This process takes time because of the complexity of the issue. We want to do this carefully and together and to involve our student and staff participation bodies.

These criteria will enable us to gain a clear picture of whether, and if so under what conditions, we want to collaborate with the fossil fuel industry. We think it is important that the academic community’s voice is heard on this issue and will include relevant scientific knowledge and developments in these considerations. We will be holding sessions on this with experts from various disciplines. We will know more about the outcome and communicate this in early 2024.

See the timeline of this process.

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