DAG was born out of frustration and hope: frustration with the dominance of neoliberalism at the University of Groningen and hope that we could achieve structural change. From the beginning it was clear that due to the relative lack of democratic power of the Councils and its embeddedness in the structures we wished to oppose, our participation in these councils alone was not going to bring about change. DAG wished to form a community that would critically investigate the structures of Dutch higher education, raise awareness and eventually create societal pressure to structurally improve the university. Only through activism outside the university council, we believed we could improve the university; our presence in the councils was primarily to provide DAG with information and a platform.
Our activism ranged from critical investigation of the Yantai papers (https://democratischeacademie.com/nl/yantaipapers/ & https://democratischeacademie.com/nl/rapport-urenregistratie-yantai-kan-niet-zonder-consequenties-blijven/) to blocking the opening of the academic year, occupying the Academy Building and helping hundreds of homeless students to find a temporary place to stay. Unfortunately, our presence in the councils has increasingly lured us into being in the councils for the councils’ sake, distracting us from our original goals. That’s why we announce that DAG will not be participating in the university council elections as well as the Arts and BSS faculty councils for next year. We will take a break to rebuild our community and reignite our activism.
Just like most activist groups, we also found it very difficult during the past year and the ongoing Covid-19 situation to mobilize and engage the community in our activism, because it takes much more time and resources to organize events and connect with people. By withdrawing from the university and faculty councils, we want to refocus our energy on the grassroot activism that reflects on and calls out problematic structures within Dutch higher education.
A sabbatical, naturally, does not mean that we will remain idle. Instead, we, as DAG, and individual members will connect to and work with other activist groups on a variety of different issue areas. Among these, University Rebellion comes to mind who are active in issue areas such as the decolonization of the university, fighting for more sustainability and, more generally, democratizing existing structures. But also movements outside of the university context such as the Groninger Klimaatcoalitie that is made up of a plethora of member organizations such as Milieudefensie, FNV and the International Socialists Groningen. In doing so, we seek to expand pre-existing networks and build new ones.
Besides connecting and working with other activist groups, we want to foster a broader discussion on topics such as racism/sexism in academia and the neoliberalization of the university through reading groups. We have had very positive experiences with an anti-racism reading group in the past and we want to pick up as well as expand on this type of awareness raising. It is also important to us to engage more people in the work we do, not only among students, but also among staff. This helps us to include more voices in the work we do, to solicit broader support, and to shine a light to the broad range of issues that we need to address. We will therefore take this break to recalibrate our goals and to evaluate our role as an activist group in the university, but also the wider societal context.