Off campus

‘No academic freedom without press freedom’, says trade union

The FNV Education & Research trade union shares concerns about press freedom in higher education. “A university magazine should be able to write on any matter.”

(Photo: Pourya Gohari/Unsplash)

Commenting on what it would mean if a research university or university of applied sciences had to do without its independent journalistic medium, FNV Education & Research union leader Sander Wesdorp says “that would be outrageous”.

This week, the editors of Eindhoven University of Technology’s magazine Cursor blacked out their website in protest against the removal from his post of Cursor’s editor-in-chief. The reason for the protest is an article about an alleged conflict of interest involving the university’s rector magnificus.

Academic freedom

He believes that an editorial board should have complete freedom in reporting on anything that happens at the institution. “And if the editors feel unable to do this, then as far as we’re concerned it’s not just press freedom that’s at stake but also academic freedom. When you think about everything that happened at Cursor this week, with the article about the new rector that was barred from publication, it’s difficult not to make that link.”

‘We’re determined to help the editors as much as we can’

“My colleague Bernard Koekoek got straight in the car on Wednesday and drove to Eindhoven so he could speak to the editors there. We’ll have to wait and see what happens over the next few days, but we’re determined to help them as much as we can.”


Wesdorp fears the incident is part of a pattern. “We have long felt that participatory bodies should have a stronger role to play. It’s high time the law was brought up to date on this point. And integral to this is good news dissemination and information provision.”

He sees merit in the idea of legislating that every research university and university of applied sciences should have an independent news medium that is properly facilitated. “An executive board member or administrator who is averse to criticism cannot then just cut off funding when it suits them. The Education Inspectorate could monitor this.”

HOP, Hein Cuppen

Translation: Taalcentrum-VU

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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