‘It’s a disgrace that Joris Luyendijk was allowed to speak at Night University’
By giving Joris Luyendijk a podium to promote his latest book, the university is reinforcing his privileges, thinks former campus poet Ebbe Tim Ottens. And this while there are so many talented researchers who contentwise can say much more about the same subject.
Joris Luyendijk came to Night University to explain his book De zeven vinkjes (The Seven Check Marks) to the general public. The book itself is not particularly exciting: people who can tick off his seven characteristics (standard Dutch, white skin color, highly educated, male, heterosexual, living in the Randstad, highly educated parents) have things infinitely easier in life. Meritocracy turned out to be a lie! Who would have thought?
Well, quite a lot of people have, for quite a long time. Privilege, meritocracy, and discrimination have been written about for decades, so none of Luyendijk’s points are surprising or interesting. Maartje Laterveer wrote a strong article in the nrc in which she argued that his analysis was firmly flawed.
So why is it such a problem that Joris Luyendijk was allowed to perform?
It is Kafkaesque in a special way that you manage to maintain (and increase) your position as a power holder by explaining to everyone why you have that power.
Moreover, we are participating in it as a university.
We have many researchers who are (much more substantively) engaged in the issues that Luyendijk discusses here, and instead of giving these people a platform, we are rewarding Luyendijk for the fact that, at least ten years after the fact, he also realizes that perhaps he owes his success in part to his privilege. As if you were to promote an old manager after years because he finally understands what all of his young employees understood a long time ago.
The fact that Luyendijk is allowed to stand there on a stage is the physical manifestation of everything he criticizes. It is a disgrace that he was allowed to be there; after all, by inviting him, we are increasing the very problem he is warning against. By giving Luyendijk a (paid) podium here, we are perpetuating the failing meritocracy, and rewarding and confirming his position in our society, which was not achieved by pure merit.
The Luyendijk brand is growing, and he can only chuckle that he was right after all with those seven check marks of his.
Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel