Rector at the opening of the academic year: ‘There is no space for violence in a safe environment’

05 Sep 2023 ,

At his last opening of the academic year, Rector Magnificus Han van Krieken indirectly and shortly looked back on the fight that took place at the intro market. According to him, there is no space for violence in a safe environment.

The Vereeniging was well-filled during the opening speech of the academic year, given for the last time by Han van Krieken. At the hundredth birthday of Radboud University, the 17th of October, the Rector Magnificus of the last seven years will pass on this title to professor of Communications in organisations José Sanders.

Safe environment

In his speech, Van Krieken looked back on yearly themes of the past academic years. Reaching the theme of 2019-2020, ‘listening’, Van Krieken shortly recollected the protest against the new conservative-nationalist student association GNSV, which resulted in a fight at the intro market.

Cortège at the Vereeniging. Photo: Johannes Fiebig

Listening is, according to the rector, still an underappreciated quality, just like curiosity towards others and towards opinions you don’t understand. ‘It also means there is a safe environment to have different opinions, where you can meet each other, where you can be confronted not only with the beautiful, but also with the ugly thinking of the homo sapiens’, according to Van Krieken.

In his speech, Van Krieken turned towards both the GNSV, as well as to Actiegroep Nijmegen, although he did not use the name of either organisation. According to the rector, there is no space for violence in a safe environment, but the borders of freedom of speech also need to be respected. Next Thursday, Radboud Reflects will organise a current affairs debate in the Lecture Hall Complex (CC) about the question of whether all opinions are welcome at the university, with the rector accompanied by political philosopher Mathijs van de Sande.


The Radboud University also wants to be of importance in her anniversary year, the rector states, by educating students to be critically thinking and engaged citizens, and by getting a better understanding of the world through our research. According to Van Krieken, curiosity-driven research and applied research go hand in hand.

‘Can all apples of the tree of wisdom be picked and eaten?’

When moving the borders of knowledge, Van Krieken also wants us to reflect on the possible consequences of doing so. The rector refers to the blockbuster Oppenheimer – about physicist and father of the atomic bomb Robert Oppenheimer – who is according to him an ode to science as well as a person who gives us something to think about. ‘Can all apples of the tree of wisdom be picked and eaten?’, the rector asked himself out loud.


Looking back on the theme connectedness, the theme of 2020-2021, the rector admitted that some things should be done better. ‘The pressure a lot of people experience is big, the mental state of students is not good, as recent research shows, and the university is not always the safe environment which we think is so important.’

Photo: Johannes Fiebig

According to the rector, the aftermath of the Corona pandemic still requires attention and in the near future a lot of other things will come our way, such as geopolitics, climate change and social diversion. Van Krieken still looks at the future hopefully, though. ‘I fully trust that we can face all challenges we know are coming, and those we do not yet know, together.’

Translated by Lara Nijhof.

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