Short news

The Executive Board submitted the so-called ‘Plan for change: social safety TU Delft’ to the Dutch Inspectorate of Education on 15 May. The latter will later give its first reaction.

In its damning report on social safety at TU Delft, the inspectorate demanded that the Executive Board submit a plan of action by mid-May. Earlier, Delta wrote about the renaming of the plan to plan for change.

Right track

According to a spokesperson, the inspection does not care what the plan is called, especially if the Executive Board can substantiate why the current setup was chosen. What matters, according to the spokesperson, is the content. “We will mainly look to see if they are on the right track. The plan must contribute to the end goal: restoring social safety.” The spokesperson expects to be able to say something more in about two weeks about how the inspection will respond to the contents. The inspectors will later provide feedback to the Executive Board and the Minister.

The plan for change is already in the hands of outgoing Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf. The Supervisory Board has submitted it on 15 May. According to the inspection spokesman, this was necessary because the inspection found mismanagement at TU Delft. According to him, the Minister can determine independently of the inspection whether the change plan gives him sufficient confidence that TU Delft’s administration is on the right track. If not, he can intervene by issuing an instruction.

Next year, the inspection will conduct a new investigation at TU Delft. By then, concrete improvements will have to be measurable.

Students from China and Hong Kong studying abroad are being monitored and intimidated by their home country, reports Amnesty International, which also interviewed Chinese students in the Netherlands.

They told Amnesty that they were followed online, both by the regime and by fellow students. Also, one in three students say their families have been approached by Chinese authorities. These include threats of dismissal or revocation of passports or promotions if the students voice criticism.

Self-censorship

Students apply self-censorship online and in conversations with each other to avoid getting into trouble. A Chinese student in the Netherlands tells Amnesty that she was repeatedly threatened by a Chinese classmate. In class, she was told that she should “have more respect for her homeland,” or there would be “consequences.” Earlier, Follow the Money (link in Dutch) wrote about how members of Chinese student associations in the Netherlands keep an eye on whether other members are too critical of their homeland.

The human rights organization interviewed 34 students from China and Hong Kong who are studying or have just finished in the U.S., Canada, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, the U.K. and the Netherlands.

Chinese students have been in the news more often for restrictions on their freedom of speech. For example, Follow the Money wrote how members of Chinese student associations in the Netherlands are monitoring whether other members are not too critical of their home country. Research by the Clingendael Institute this year revealed that some of the doctoral students who receive scholarships from the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) must swear allegiance to the Communist Party in the accompanying contract. Delta revealed in 2023 that CSC PhD students must report to the Chinese Embassy in The Hague several times a year.

Despite such censorship attempts, Chinese students do not always let themselves to be silenced, protests in late 2022 showed. Chinese students in Delft also revolted – in their own way.

“The testimonies we collected for this study clearly show how the governments of China and Hong Kong try to silence students even though they are thousands of miles from home. Many students live in fear because of this,” said Sarah Brooks of Amnesty International in a press release. The organization calls on universities to better protect academic freedom and support Chinese students in the event of “transnational repression. (HOP, OL/ Delta, AdB)

Imagine a world with global internet coverage. You could check your socials on mountains, in deserts or on the middle of the ocean. The internet not only serves smartphones, but also sensors, detectors, cameras, cars and drones – you name it. We’re describing a truly global internet of things (IoT). TU Delft alumnus Dr. Sujay Narayana argues that such a network will only be possible with hundreds or even thousands of mini satellites that communicate directly with devices on Earth.

The KHMW read-more-closed awarded Dr Narayana’s PhD thesis‘ titled ‘Space Internet of Things’ with the bi-annual Kees Schouhamer Immink Prize for technical computer science and telecommunications. The ceremony took place on 11 April 2024 in the Jaarbeurs, Utrecht during the NWO ICT.OPEN event.

Such minisatellites face a number of challenges, all having to do with the limited electrical power. Narayana managed to tackle three of these. He developed:

  • A radio technique that allows low-power, long range communication
  • A low-power space-qualified GPS receiver that saves up to 96 % compared to state-of-the-art GPS receivers
  • An independent energy efficient system called Chirper that checks vital signs of the satellite and transmits these to ground stations independently.

Dr Narayana did his remarkable PhD research at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics (EEMCS) of the TU Delft under supervision of Professor Koen Langendoen and Dr Ranga Rao Venkatesha Prasad.

KHMW prize 2024
Dr Sujay Narayana (midden) ontvangt de KHMW Keees Schouhamer Immink prijs tijdens het ICT.OPEN event op 11 april 2024. (Foto: KHMW)

On Monday 13 May, students and staff of all kinds of universities and universities of applied sciences plan to protest with a ‘walk-out’: at 11 AM, they will stop their work and walk outside. In Delft, a similar protest has been announced by a group calling itself Engineering Solidarity Palestine Delft and that is supported by End Fossil LU TUD.

With the walk-out, the activists want to show their solidarity with students and employees in Amsterdam and Utrecht, who last week demonstrated against the war in Gaza and against whom the police took several violent actions.

Like last week, the protest in Delft will take place on the Freezone next to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science. Then several dozen people attended.

Are you a student travelling by public transport on Wednesday or Thursday? Take note, because Thursday is Ascension Day. Students with a weekend pass (ov-kaart in Dutch, public transport card for students) can then travel for free, while students with a weekly pass only get a discount. The Wednesday before is also different (in Dutch).

Also good to know: with a weekend pass you can travel for free as early as 12 noon on Wednesday (and of course you can also travel all Wednesday with a week pass).

The Friday after Ascension Day is a normal Friday, even though many people take time off and it is also the May holiday. Students can travel that day as in normal weeks: free all day with a weekly pass and free from 12 noon onwards with a weekend pass.

Protect open and free science in Europe. That call is made by the national academies of science, including the Dutch KNAW, ahead of the European elections on Thursday 6 June.

For science, internationalisation is an important issue. After incidents with China and the war in Ukraine, some European member states distrust the international cooperation and exchange of researchers and students.

In the Netherlands, there are plans for stricter screening of foreign students and scientists. A big country like Germany is also working on restrictions. The door is not locked, but as the European Commission describes it: ‘cooperation with China is increasingly nuanced and transactional’. Other countries are also under a magnifying glass.

But international cooperation and exchange of knowledge, researchers and students are precisely a major asset of the European Union, the academies of science of 27 member states write in a joint statement. Scientists and students should be able to do their work “at all times under safe conditions”.

They further believe that countries should invest 3 per cent of their GDP in research and development. In her contribution to a press conference, KNAW president Marileen Dogterom underlined that the Netherlands does not yet reach that agreed 3 per cent.

‘Challenges’ like climate change, biodiversity loss, international migration, food security and the energy transition can only be tackled on a mutual trust-based dialogue between science, politics, civil society organisations and business, Dogterom underlined.

How can you do open and free science in a world with so many military and geopolitical threats? Scientists should not be naive, Dogterom replied, and look carefully at who they are working with. They should also assess whether their research could have a military application. Dogterom: “We have to find the balance, otherwise we are not doing ourselves any favours.”

HOP, Bas Belleman

SURF no longer tweets. The ICT cooperative for education is leaving X and opening its own server for education and research on Mastodon. There, users are less bothered by bots, trolls and spam.

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter and started calling it X, public ‘twexits’, as a farewell to Twitter is sometimes called, have been raining down. Musk would do too little against disinformation and incitement by trolls and fake accounts, his critics think.

SURF, too, has had enough. X no longer aligns with public values such as “humanity, autonomy and justice”, writes the ICT cooperative of Dutch educational institutions in a press release.

Many scientists have already left the platform or are using it less, SURF argues. A spokesperson refers to a recent study by Nature, in which more than half of the scientists surveyed said they tweet less or cancel their accounts.

SURF is switching to the much smaller Mastodon, which is open source and decentralised in nature. On the platform, local administrators themselves largely determine the rules and technology of their own communities.

HOP, Olmo Linthorst

After last year’s success, the second edition of the Liberation Festival will take place on the Doelenplein this year. On Liberation Day, which is 5 May, naturally. Organiser is Delft Vrij Foundation, in collaboration with six students.

Between 1 PM and midnight, all kinds of artists will perform on the square. ‘From big band to solo artist’, according to the organisation on Instagram. Filmhuis Lumen will be screening five films about freedom for the occasion. Closing the special programme is The Zone of Interest at 18:20, which was recently awarded several Oscars.

It is a festival for everyone, says student and organiser Fien de Mol van Otterloo. Besides music and films, there will also be activities for children.

  • Want to know more? Take a look on the website of Delft Vrij of their Instagram (both in Dutch).
Update 1 May 2024

The professor in question is Corinne Hofman, Dutch newspaper NRC reported (in Dutch) on Wednesday based on interviews with insiders. Sources within the university also confirmed to Leiden university magazine Mare (in Dutch) that Hofman is involved. She is a professor of archaeology and was dean of the archaeology faculty between 2013 and 2018. To NRC, she reports that she ‘unfortunately cannot make any statements about this case at this stage of the process’. The partner’s name is known to NRC, writes that newspaper, but is not mentioned.

Leiden University has suspended a full professor who, together with their partner, is said to be guilty of abuse of power, manipulation and violation of scientific integrity. The university announced this on Thursday. It is not known what the professor’s name is or which faculty they work at. However, university magazine Mare (in Dutch) reports that they have worked at the university for 33 years.

During all that time, there was allegedly a culture of fear among employees who depended on them, the university said. Among other things, the professor allegedly appropriated others’ research material and ‘monopolised’ certain data. Since autumn last year, a total of 19 reporters, including PhD students, postdocs and students, spoke to an investigation committee. In addition, administrators, peers and experts were heard.

Since the start of the investigation, the professor has been suspended. Furthermore, their partner is no longer welcome at the university. The Executive Board has requested the professor’s dismissal; if approved, the scientist will no longer be allowed to call themselves a professor.

Lessons

Next month, the Leiden Executive Board will disclose an (anonymised) investigation report on the issue. President of the Excutive Board Annetje Ottow wants to draw lessons from it, she writes in the statement. Problems with power, dependency and competitive spirit are ‘not just an issue in this faculty and at our institution’, she writes besides that.

Not only at TU Delft, but also at Leiden University, social unsafety is a topic that has long occupied minds. In 2023, for instance, Tim de Zeeuw was sacked, the professor of astronomy said to be guilty of multiple abuses of power and unwanted behaviour. Earlier, professors in pedagogical sciences were discredited (in Dutch) for the poor working climate of which they were identified as the cause after investigations.

HOP, Bas Belleman/Kim Bakker

Social safety at TU Delft

The Education Inspectorate report published in March showed that social safety at TU Delft is a big issue as well. Delta publishes extensively about this topic. Take a look at our dossier to see what we have written about it so far.

The colours jump off the wall at the end of a block of flats in the residential neighbourhood of Buitenhof in Delft. The image is of Remses Rafaela and his daughter from Rotterdam. Rafaela still sees her, but does not see his son Joah any more. “This painful situation is reflected in Remses’ eyes,” says Glenn Weisz, the Director of the Canidream Foundation and former TU Delft teacher. “One eye looks sad and the other one bursts with love.” Every year, 9,600 children no longer have contact with one or both parents as a result of an acrimonious separation. The Mira Mí mural puts this in the spotlight.

Mira Mí, which means ‘see me’ in Papiamento, is part of Canidream’s Nobis Community Art project. In the project, TU Delft students, artists and community builders work in areas around Buitenhof to ‘connect it and decorate it’. Alumnus Parya Lotfi was still studying at TU Delft in 2022 and took part as a student. She was in contact with neighbourhood residents and organised workshops for all sorts of groups in Buitenhof. “They included young people, senior citizens, primary school children and refugees. During the workshops, they told us who their heroes are.” Family members were named the most: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. As were buurtvaders (neighbourhood fathers). “Fathers are key in the contact between young people and various authorities in Buitenhof,” explains Weisz. He himself grew up in Buitenhof and recognises the key role that parents play in raising the children in the neighbourhood.

Een foto van een beschilderd flatgebouw met op de voorgrond een man en een vrouw die de muurschildering mede-bedachten.
Glenn Weisz (left) and Parya Lotfi (right) are co-creators of the mural. (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)
Pain

It was the artist called BEYOND, known as Roelof Schierbeek in everyday life, who translated the subjects emerging from the workshops to the mural. He chose the story of Rafaela and his children. “In doing so, he expresses the pain of the fathers who want to be there for their children, but who may not be. An acrimonious separation is one of the few areas where men are disadvantaged compared to women,” explains Weisz.

Weisz taught personal leadership at TU Delft for seven years. Lotfi was in his last class. The two met again in 2021 and Weisz asked her if she wanted to be part of one of his projects. This became Nobis 2. “She has really done exceptionally well,” says Weisz, “And that while she was already so busy as a research assistant and running her own company.” Lotfi is the co-founder and CEO of DuckDuckGoose, a company that specialises in technology that recognises deepfakes. Weisz continues. “We knew each other as student and teacher. The dynamics are completely different now – entrepreneur and entrepreneur. For example, on the way to this interview, we talked about organising certain processes in your company. It’s fabulous to see how she went from a student to a global entrepreneur.”

Art route

Apart from Mira Mí, Buitenhof has another mural called La Perla. Lotfi says that “It is about the hidden gems in the neighbourhood and was also conceived with the neighbourhood residents.” Weisz and Lotfi call this piece of art Nobis 1. In September of this year, a third mural will be painted in Buitenhof, the Nobis 3 project. The Prinsenhof Museum and the Mauritshuis Museum are involved. “During the workshops, neighbourhood residents will address the question of what we should cherish. What we should all look after. It could be anything: freedom, a green environment, travel, whatever.” The Prinsenhof Museum will then put together a tour for neighbourhood residents in line with their input. “That’s where the real magic happens,” says Weisz. “BEYOND, the artist, will also join the tours and will design Nobis 3 according to what he sees there and hears from neighbourhood residents.”

TU Delft students can also share their thoughts about this mural. Or to be more accurate, about the art route that will emerge. Delft is planning to add another 15 murals. To set a route along all the works of art, Weisz is planning to call on the help of TU Delft students. What that help will bring is still open. “One option is that it could be to look for the best places for the murals and how you then arrange the route. A second option is that I ask them to work on expanding the collaboration between the campus and the suburbs. A third is to integrate art and technology, one possibility being to include augmented reality in the art route.”