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Critical Thinking and Freedom of Speech was not one of the goals of University of Amsterdam during Draghi visit


Critical Thinking and Freedom of Speech is not one of the goals of SEFA

With the occasion of having Mr. Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, participating in the “Room for Discussion” event, the Student Association for Economics and Business (SEFA) of University of Amsterdam avoided any opportunity to expose tomorrow’s economists to critical and diverse thinking. Mr Draghi gave a rather boring and foreseen speech about his views on the role of the monetary policies of the ECB in preventing the economic down spiral of the euro zone crisis. The intelligent, inspiring, and true to the academic spirit, questions chosen for Mr. Draghi by SEFA where non other than “your signature on the euro bill is simple compared to your predecessors, are you also so direct in your life?”, “who was your favorite student?”, and finally “what is your advice for the students that want to also become the president of ECB one day?”.

When we confronted the organizers and ask them why there were no questions about the crisis, or the effectiveness of the policies of the ECB, or finally the consequences of such policies, we were told that students already knew the answers to these questions and thus there was no point posing them. In addition, according to the views of SEFA and the organizers of the “Room for Discussion” event, when you interview important people, such as Mr. Draghi, you should make small talk and not direct questions!

Not even one of the questions we sent beforehand via twitter – which was the designated way to ask questions – was chosen. We had prepared for this case by printing a brochure criticizing the infamous quota of Mr.Draghi, that “the euro must be saved whatever it takes”. However, we were not allowed to distribute our brochure to the students since it was deemed by the security of the University of Amsterdam as non-academic material! We were bullied out by the security, who claimed that the building is private and “owned” by the head of the security. Eventually, we were only allowed to distribute our brochure far away from the entrance of the University.

The policies of ECB have triggered countless criticism not only for causing hundreds of thousands to be unemployed and poor, but also for their effectiveness in the economical growth. Mr. M.Draghi, once a vice chairman and managing director of Goldman Sachs, now the President of ECB, is still a member of private financial trusts and banking lobbies, such as the G30. (For the history, a complaint to the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) filed in June 2012, the complaint was directed against the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, for his membership of an organization of high profile bankers from both the private and public sector – the Group of Thirty G30).

We believe that SEFA, and the University of Amsterdam, has a responsibility in the stultification of the students by exposing them only to one-sided views, and by discouraging lively discussions in interesting topics of the economical and political life. SEFA is also responsible for the degradation of the academic spirit of the students, transforming them to mere admirers of the so called powerful and successful men.

Yesterday, it was clear that there was No “Room for discussion”.

The organizers choose to hide the fact that Mr. Draghi of the ECB is responsible for the humanitarian crisis of the European south. We call SEFA and the University of Amsterdam to organize real discussions that give food for thought, that speak the truth rather than covering up reality, and to stimulate the critical thinking of tomorrow’s economists, so as to be able to recognize and serve society’s interests and not just their carriers with “whatever it takes”.


This is the flyer that was distributed to the attendants of the event:




This is the reply we got from Room for Discussion:


Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your email.
The current economic, financial and, above all, humanitarian crisis that is happening as we speak in Southern Europe and specifically Greece is very intriguing. At Room for Discussion, we have held multiple sessions where the current situation in Greece was up for debate. These include:
Although this doesn’t settle the current debate at all, I would like to mention that we try to involve students at each and every session that we host. Usually, it is very hard to receive (student)questions in advance. 
For yesterday’s session with mr Draghi, we have had the honour to receive over 100 questions via Twitter, Email and in person. This has led us to make a selection, based on the most frequently asked questions and, unfortunately, also the questions that were regarded more urgent concerning the current economic issues. The ECB Communication Office’s format constraint and a maximum of 5 questions, which had to be sent upfront (and we clearly passed, to their anger), did not help either. We chose to host the session with mr Draghi anyway. This unfortunately led to your questions not being proposed to mr Draghi, which we clearly regret. Still, there was time for 4 questions by ‘regular’ students.
Personally, I must admit that I am very much intrigued by the current situation in Greece. 30 students just come back from Athens with a Sefa and Faculty backed study trip, where they visited multiple universities and talked to as much students as possible. The first stories are very hard to cope with. 
As a result of numerous previous comments, we are constantly trying to make Room for Discussion more accessible for students. To our dissatisfaction, this results in ‘easier’ questions and more ‘background’. Still, we are very much open to critical thinking and reasons for debate. 
Hopefully, we will be able to discuss the topic during one of the upcoming sessions at Room for Discussion. These will be held in our usual format and therefor are an excellent opportunity to discuss the current situation in Greece. Hopefully we can also receive your questions for these sessions, as there will be plenty of time for them to be discussed.
I apologise for all the inconveniences and we highly appreciate your time and effort to propose a question, as we usually do not receive a lot. If you have any other suggestions concerning Room for Discussion, please feel free to send us an email or approach us again at the platform. We are, feel and stay a student run platform. 
With kind regards,

Bob Verhagen

Room for Discussion 

| Roetersstraat 11 | 1018 WB | Amsterdam
+31 (0) 20 525 40 24

Georganiseerd in de centrale hal van de Faculteit Economie en Bedrijfskunde (gebouw E),
gelegen op het Roeterseilandcomplex van de Universiteit van Amsterdam

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