Launch Event

Wednesday evening 29 September 2021 we launched the University from Beow in the cellar of the Pieter de la Court building and on Zoom.

The university has been captured by the managerial class, impoverishing the quality of teaching and research with its market incentives. The only option we are left with is to start from the bottom-up, to recover the university we want. UNIVERSITY FROM BELOW is a series of events on the neoliberalization of higher education, the history of student activism, as well as casualization, precarity and structural overwork. The initiative is an attempt to reclaim real academic space where we can think collaboratively in a non-hierarchical and non-conventional way to fulfil the university's critical role in society.

Sai Englert welcomed everyone and explained Casual Leiden exist because of the university's massive reliance on temporary contracts.

Elisa Da Vía briefly presented the findings of a survey we conducted last February to collect data on casualisation at Leiden University. 79% of respondent were on temporary contracts! The majority of them splinter contracts of very few fte's.

Important findings:

People are frustrated by a lack of transparency and clarity.

The balance between research and teaching time is off. 84.3% of respondents on temporary contracts have NO research time at all! This makes developing an academic career near impossible.

There is an issue with structural overwork. 73% of respondents report working more hours than their contract. Read our full report.

We therefore contacted the CVB of the university with three main demands:

1. End casualisation as the work is structural!

2. Create progressive career paths for all staff.

3. End structural overwork.

For De Ware Opening of the academic year 21-22, we reformulated our demands in consultation with our allies at other Dutch universities to include issues of misconduct:

  1. End casualization.

  2. End structural overwork.

  3. Ensure a safe working environment.

We added a deadline to these demands: 20 December. Read more about it here.

Lotje Stiffels of 0.7 explained more about their role as advocacy group. She insisted that there is a lack of accountability in Dutch Universities with regard to structural unpaid overwork, the handling of misconduct, and other issues. She also explained how discussing individual contracts with 0.7 has sometimes helped to avoid exploitative constructions.

Two students of xcc_leiden joined our meeting to explain how the struggles of Leidenvoor14 that fights for a minimum wage of 14 euros, Exctinction Rebelllion fighting against climate change, #NietMijnSchuld pleading for the cancelation of the loan system and of current student debts, Pride Leiden and other groups are all interconnected. For this reason, solidarity between workers and students is vital for everyone.

We subsequently worked on a mood board expressing frustrations and desires in text and image.

Please find an impression of the creative work in this thread:

Casual Leiden song.docx

Finally, one of our members performed a song accompanied by keyboard and all present sang along.

"What is the university?

When there is no dignity
A bastion of freedom
Paid for by our casualties"

With the University from Below now officially opened, we look forward to seeing you at one of our other events.