Students held after symbolic fees protest
1 March 2005
AMSTERDAM — Some 200 students were forcibly arrested on Tuesday morning after they stormed the management offices of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in a high-profile protest against rising course fees.
Following a request by the university board, police forced open the doors of the Maagdenhuis building on the Spui in the city centre, at about 1.30am. All students were arrested and escorted away in buses for questioning.
RTL news footage showed the students being hit by batons by police officers, but news agency ANP quoted police saying the protest ended peacefully. The students wanted to remain non-violent and surrendered without a fight.
The protest was aimed at plans by Education State Secretary Mark Rutte to increase fees for students who take longer than five and a half years to complete their studies. It means fees could rise to EUR 4,500 per year.
The university building was stormed at about 7pm and, as members of the public were escorted out, students boarded the offices shut with iron bars and barricaded doors with furniture.
They intended to remain there until the Dutch government changed its policy.
But Rutte refused to meet with the students immediately, saying he would only be available to do so later in the week. The university then asked the police to act.
The students chose to storm the Maagdenhuis because protesting students occupied the same building in 1969 for five days. Those students won changes to Dutch education policy.
“But this is the same generation which is developing these bad plans for us,” a protest spokesman said on Monday night.
Rutte was in contact via phone with the demonstrators on Monday night. He told them it was good that they stood up for their rights, but said he was not prepared to change his policy.
He said on Radio 1 on Tuesday morning that students have a right to occupy university buildings, but that they must accept the consequences of their actions.
The state secretary said the student demands mean that other students who do finish their studies in five and half years will have to pay more. “That appears to be solidarity in reverse: the fast student is paying for the slow student.”
Students rejected the statement, asserting that the government plans undermine the quality of tertiary education. Besides an increase in course fees, students are also demanding greater authority over education policy. More protest actions are being planned.
And despite the fact that the occupation was ended prematurely, students claim their protest was a success. “The signal that students finally want to see improvements has finally been given,” one of the protesters said.
[Copyright Expatica News + Novum Nieuws 2005]
Subject: Dutch news