No funding for a catastrophic future

Action by End Fossil demands Leiden University to cut ties with Fossil Fuel companies 

Tuesday, the 8th of May, the lunch break of Leiden University students in the Lipsus building was disrupted by an action by the End Fossil Fuel Leiden movement. A banner and a performance expressed their demands to Leiden University to stop fossil fuel companies from funding academic research and increase funding transparency. Even though the action was a small one, the activist met the interested ears of the students and security. Though for different reasons.  

“Cut the ties, Cut the ties,” the speaker of the End Fossil shouted through the cafeteria. Echoes of agreement answered from the chairs. Students unpacking their lunchboxes or Albert Hein dips with bread faced a rather unconventional performance at the Leiden Sustainability Day LUGO. The Leiden and Delft University branch of End fossil fuel performed a visual depiction of their demands. Paper symbols of Shell and Aramco pinned to suits symbolized their representatives, who were tied through literal suit ties to a student. It was upon the University Magnificus, Heister Bijl, symbolized with a paper mask, an eccentric hat and an old women’s clutch to cut the suit ties with a scissor. 

“I like that the action is explicitly set in the public space so that we’re not dodging around but claiming this public space of the university to undermine the demands towards the university,” said Albert, master’s graduate in Philosophy, while observing the action.  

Even though suit ties are cut, the reality is still bleak. 

“We don’t want our education to be funded towards a catastrophic future,” emphasised the speaker of the End Fossil through his megaphone. Today, Leiden University’s research, among which the Middle East Institute is suspected to be largely financed by fossil fuel companies, especially Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Fossil Fuel company Aramco. Clear clarification of the research funding of Leiden University, is necessary, yet the University has still not made it transparent, even after the request by End Fossil Leiden. 

Universities, the crib of climate policies, sustainability, in general, and critical thinking towards our economic system, to be funded by the driver of climate warming and fabricated denialism? The relationship between university research and Fossil Fuel companies seems ironic in light of yet another failed COP and climate targets. 

However, the effects of funding University research are beyond irony.

End Fossil activist Appel underlines that even if Shell invests in sustainable technocratic solutions for the climate crisis, this has to be seen as a greater effort of Greenwashing. In fact, the majority of their research funding on universities is directed toward the extraction of oil, increasing production also in still unexplored regions, and thus, research directed towards driving the climate crisis. One of the student activists commented, “It’s ridiculous that a scientific institution works together with an industry that counteracts science”. 

Another criticized factor is the presence of Oil companies at the Leiden Career Fair and the lecture halls. Through this, Leiden University become a place in which not only the next generation of oil engineers is educated but also integrated into the labour market. 

Such influence is met with irritation not only by the activists but also by students who, until now, did not know about fossil fuel funding. Lukas, 23, International Studies student who witnessed a guest lecture by a Shell tax adviser in his classroom, said: “I feel like stakeholders try to influence my academic opinion.”  

Still, the majority of students at Leiden University are surprised about the funding. “I did not know the university has ties with Shell and Aramco and those are not really companies you want to be associated with,” said Bob, 19, a student of classical Greek and Latin. Thomas eating his rice salad agrees, “It’s good that this action gets the awareness of the people.” 

As such the activists are considering the action as a success. Charlotte, the activist dressed up as Aramco, said, “I think this was a good action for outreaching and raising awareness for the topic. The people seemed really interested, also in our flyers.” 

The University tolerated the action; no security guards disrupted the action even though the flyers of End Fossil Fuel vanished from the tables within minutes. 

Across Netherlands and Europe, the movement and other branches of End Fossil Fuel have protested the funding. Some even went so far as to occupy for days the university buildings in Rotterdam, Utrecht and Amsterdam. On the 10th of May, the group End Fossil Fuel Leiden & Delft are jointly protesting on the campus in Delft. 

By Ramona




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