UPDATE: Majority of the University Council does not want to condemn the cyber-attack on Observant

UPDATE: Majority of the University Council does not want to condemn the cyber-attack on Observant

Academic personnel section remains silent during meeting

29-03-2022 · News

MAASTRICHT. An attempt to move the University Council towards condemning of the cyber-attack on Observant last week, stranded due to silence of most of the council members. The academic staff even remained collectively mute. The Executive Board, on the other hand, did speak out again.

It was during the question round at the end of the latest University Council meeting on 23 March, that Maarten van Wesel, council member on behalf of the administrative and support staff, asked for the floor and started to read a statement. In it, he praised the UM for all the space it provided for expressing all kinds of different opinions; it is essential within our “educational approach” and “that is how we learn and grow”. That freedom of expressing one’s opinion, he argued, requires an environment in which it is safe to do so. When that freedom is threatened, the university community and the University Council should speak out against that. “People may not agree with what a newspaper writes,” Van Wesel continued, but it has “the fundamental right” to write about all kinds of topics, even if that might hurt some people. The DDoS attack on Observant, because of which the newspaper’s site was down for three days, “is not just a crime, it affects the essence of the values that we cherish as a university”.

Van Wesel ended with an appeal to the University Council to “condemn the attacks on Observant in the strongest possible terms” and to speak out “against those who applauded those attacks”.

Unsafe

What followed was a deafening silence. In answer to the question by council chairperson Amanda Kluveld whether there were any reactions, only Collin Prumpeler, member for the administrative and support staff answered: he supported Van Wesel’s opinion wholeheartedly. One student, Freddy Leppert, also had something to say. She felt that what happened to Observant “should not have happened” but immediately added that the newspaper had created an unsafe atmosphere with its articles, not a safe space.

Disagreement

There was no sound from the academic staff section, neither in agreement, nor in disagreement. President Rianne Letschert then dived into the vacuum, “then I would like to say something”. She emphasised once again, “as I have previously been quoted in Observant and in a national newspaper,” that the Executive Board condemns this attack on the freedom of press in every possible way. Subsequently, Letschert reacted to the remark made by student member Leppert, which mainly referred to the disagreement between Observant and student group Feminists of Maastricht (FOM) after the newspaper had refused to comply with a particular use of words as demanded by FOM. Instead of ‘women menstruate’ Observant should have used menstruating people. Since then, the university newspaper has been accused of being ‘transphobic’. Letschert said that she hoped that a dialogue between both parties would be set up; she offered her support in that.

Front

A few days after the University Council meeting, it appeared that the academic staff did not form as united a front as had previously appeared. Council member Mark Govers contacted Observant’s editor in chief by telephone with the message that he had not understood what Van Wesel’s statement was about at the time, but that he also condemns the cyber-attack. Moreover, he supports the previous appeal in Observant (in the editorial of 15 March) for an open debate about the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, wokeness, inclusivity, the cancel culture, et cetera, where swords can be crossed on the basis of mutual respect and arguments.

 

POSTCRIPT

A little week after the meeting, and after the publication of this article on the Observant website, the delegation of the scientific staff announced the following by e-mail: “Importantly, our silence should not be interpreted to have been the expression of an opinion. It is not customary to initiate a discussion among UC members during the round table. Usually, questions are posed to the Executive Board which are then picked up directly in writing or placed on the agenda of a future meeting. The fact that an individual member posed the question directly to other council members surprised the delegation because it had not been addressed in our preliminary discussion and we therefore decided not to respond in an ad hoc and uncoordinated manner. Earlier this month, we had also decided not to put the cyber attack on the agenda because, in our opinion, it was adequately handled by the Executive Board. In case there was any doubt with respect to the cyber attack, we would like to emphasize that we absolutely reject the restriction of free speech and hope for a safe and inclusive environment for all.”

Author: Riki Janssen

Photo: archive Observant

Categories: News, news_top
Tags: cyberattack,ddos,observant,university council

Responses

LAM

Unsafe. A word used by crybullies to shut down discussion because they either cannot or will not defend their behaviour. I can't believe The University Council has allowed themselves to be manipulated into silence like this! While calls for dialogue and mutual understanding are intuitively right, it's unlikely to happen when some refuse to discuss the matter, preferring to resort to aggression and intimidation.

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