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Special anniversary celebration for Leiden University: 440 years

The celebration of Leiden's Dies Natalis on Monday 9 February in the Pieterskerk was extra special this year and was attended by many prominent guests. This was the kick-off of the special 88th Lustrum (five-year) celebrations in 2015.

Praesidium libertatis is a responsibility for every day

Het cortège op weg naar de Pieterskerk

'Freedom is by no means self-evident. Our motto  Praesidium libertatis has to be more than just words. It is a responsibility for every day.' At the start of the Dies celebrations, Rector Magnificus Carol Stolker referred to the theme for this lustrum year: 440 years of freedom. The guests at the Dies celebration included Prince Constantijn, ambassadors from 18 countries, almost all the rectores magnifici from the Dutch Universities and the mayors of Leiden, The Hague and several neighbouring municipalities. In a crowded Pieterskerk they witnessed a programme including highlights of Leiden's research and teaching, and a foretaste of the activities to follow in 2015.

Dies lecturer Hanna Swaab: invest in the right treatment for vulnerable children

Hanna Swaab
Hanna Swaab

In her lecture, Professor of Neuropedagogics Hanna Swaab called for in-depth research on children with serious behavioural problems: initiating treatment too hastily can have an adverse impact on the outcome. Therapists should first determine whether there are any neurobiological developmental disorders such as ADHD, and should examine why a child quickly resorts to aggression.  


The wrong treatment can cause more aggression

Onder de aanwezigen in de volle Pieterskerk bevonden zich prins Constantijn, ambassadeurs van achttien landen en bijna alle rectores magnifici van de Nederlandse universiteiten.

Swaab commented that some children have a less sensitive stress system, which means they seek out stimuli that can put them at risk. Others are highly sensitive to stress and for them aggression is a sign that they are feeling irritated because their emotions are easily upset. Treatment based on the wrong approach can increase their aggression, Swaab warned. 'Making the right diagnosis costs time and money, but treatment without the right analysis is a waste of money - and even more so a waste of time - for a vulnerable child.'

Photo slide 

Watch the slideshow.

Three honorary doctorates

William Christie ontvangt het eredoctoraat.
William Christie receiving his Honorary Doctorate from Professor Frans de Ruiter.

William Christie, Peter J. Katzenstein and Lilian Gonçalves-Ho Kang You received Honorary Doctorates for their significance to society and for their contributions to teaching and research. 

Appreciation of French baroque music

Musicologist and director William Christie has had a major cultural impact. His pioneering work has led to a renewed appreciation of French baroque music, from the 17th and 18th centuries. In his speech of thanks Christie explained how pleased he is with this new appreciation: 'This music, that I am so fond of, has taken its rightful place in opera houses and concert halls. It has become highly significant for musicians and their public today and tomorrow.' 



The importance of free speech

Peter J. Katzenstein ontvangt het eredoctoraat.
Peter J. Katzenstein receiving his Honorary Doctorate.

As a professor at Cornell University, Peter J. Katzenstein has trained many different researchers. He is one of the most influential scholars in the field of comparative political economics and international relations. He talked about the reputation of Leiden University as a bastion of freedom and the importance of free speech: 'We are once again confronted with threats to freedom of expression; I am talking about Paris, of course, and I expect this will also be likely to happen in the Netherlands and probably even in Leiden. Murder is not an instrument to stop freedom of expression. It is evil and wrong and must be combatted by all legal means.'

Dedication to human rights

Lilian Gonçalves-Ho Kang You ontvangt het eredoctoraat
Lilian Gonçalves-Ho Kang You receiving her Honorary Doctorate.

Human rights activitist and lawyer Lilian Gonçalves-Ho Kang You received an Honorary Doctorate 'for her exemplary career at the very heart of the legal state.' Gonçalves' former husband, Kenneth Gonçalves, President of the local Order of Lawyers, was one of the fifteen victims of the December murders in Surinam in 1982. She demonstrates strong societal involvement and great dedication to human rights, in particular the rights of women. She ended her word of thanks with the powerful statement: 'I thank you, my Alma Mater, from the depth of my heart for this Honorary Doctorate. It reinforces the hope deep in my heart and the determination to strive for justice.'


Harmen Jousma wins 2015 Teaching Prize

Harmen Jousma
Harmen Jousma

Femke Vermeer, chair of the jury of the Leiden University Student Platform, announced the winner of the 2015 Teaching Prize. The particularly thorough preparation for the job market is one of the reasons why Harmen Jousma, lecturer in Science Based Business, deserves to win the Teaching Prize, according to Vermeer. In his speech of thanks commented the somewhat taken-aback Jousma that he intends to train his students for the world outside the university. His motto is: 'Always focus on the students, and make sure your teaching will be relevant to them as alumni.' 

Teachers' Academy

This prize earns Jousma a place in the Leiden Teachers’ Academy. The other two nominees, Anita van Dissel (lecturer in Maritime History) and Jan van der Ploeg (lecturer in Environmental Anthropology), were highly praised for the way they give their students a good understanding of the field of practice.

Cultural genocide

Sophie Starrenburg
Sophie Starrenburg

During the Dies celebration, attention was also focused on the remarkable achievement of one of Leiden's students. Sophie Starrenburg, student of Public International Law, wrote her bachelor's thesis on cultural genocide. Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk praised this thesis that combined high-quality research and societal impact. Starrenburg explained her research in a brief presentation. The concept of cultural genocide was introduced in 1948 by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, when the United Nations was involved in drawing up the Genocide Treaty. Lemkin wanted the concept of genocide to have a cultural dimension. He meant by this the destruction of a common culture of a group of people, with the aim of damaging the soul of the group.  

Criminal offence

It proved to be a step too far for the United Nations to include cultural genocide in the treaty. Starrenburg studied what happened subsequently. The concept still appears in negotiations on treaties, but has so far not become part of any treaty, an omission that she believes should be rectified: 'Making cultural genocide a criminal offence can be a simple means of protecting cultural heritage, in times of both war and peace.'


Muzikanten van De Veenfabriek bespelen bijzondere instrumenten zoals een grote rijdende tuba.

It was then time for a performance by the Royal Academy of Arts (a partnership between Leiden University and the University of the Arts in The Hague) and the Leiden theare group De Veenfabriek. They performed an ode to art and culture through speech, song and unusual instruments, such as the düraluphone, a construction made of aluminium tubes covering one octave, treated with violin resin, and held together in a rack. The tubes are vibrated by being struck with resin-covered gloves and produce a very pure tone.

Anniversary theme: Freedom

Het winnende logo is gemaakt door Márton Kabai.
The winning logo was created by Márton Kabai.

This Dies celebration was also the kick-off of the celebration of the University's 440th anniversary. The theme is  ‘440 years of freedom’, the logo of the anniversary and the website were revealed to the audience present in the church. The key events of the celebrations will take place in June and September.

Letter to King Willem-Alexander

Rector magnificus Carel Stolker
Rector magnificus Carel Stolker

True to tradition, Head of the Rector's Office, Rosalien van der Poel, then presented a letter of congratulations from King Willem-Alexander. Earlier in the day, the University had sent a letter to the King expressing the University 's appreciation of its traditional bond with the royal family, a bond that the Univesity regards as an enormous privilege. It was William of Orange who founded the University in 1575. Stolker then revealed to the audience that a bronze bust of Willem-Alexander is currently being worked on by sculptor Aart Schonk. The sculpture will be unveiled later this year in the Academy Building.  


Finally, Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker presented a number of publications, including a review in photos of the University in 2014, an abbreviated version of the strategic plan  Freedom to Excel, and an anniversary publication by the Hortus Botanicus. Historian Willem Otterspeer wrote a book:  Edele wijze lieve bijzondere, a compact history of Leiden University, specially for the anniversary of the University.

See also

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