Mo(nu)ment of a compassionate university


Not every day at VUB is a party – at least not for everyone. The cause of human sadness at our university often transcends the workspace, as it often lies in our personal lives: the end of a relationship, the death of a relative, long-term illness or caring responsibilities. The Monument of Compassion offers a silent spot as an acknowledgement of the struggles we face in the places where we work and study, as well as a dedicated location for gatherings. On 19 November at 11.00, we'll hold our first ever commemoration ceremony, which will become a yearly tradition.

Even on a university campus, serious illness, death, sorrow, grief and long-term caring responsibilities are a part of life. At times like that, alongside professional support and care services, human support for colleagues and fellow students is essential. With the Monument of Compassion, VUB is literally and figuratively creating a focal point for sorrow and comfort in the place where we work and study. On 19 November at 11.00, we will host the inaugural annual memorial service.


The Monument of Compassion at VUB will grow into a place for individual or collective reflection. It’s a place of silence on campus where you can take time for yourself, and a place for gatherings in the wake of major events such as the terrorist attacks in Brussels in 2016. VUB plans to organise an annual memorial service on the day before St-V. At this inaugural event, we will remember all the VUBers who have gone before us.


“We want to be a warm and compassionate university,” says rector Caroline Pauwels, who took the initiative for this monument. “We want to recognise the human struggles among our students and staff. VUB is a community in which we encourage, support and lighten the load of one another during difficult times and experiences in life. Anyone who is facing serious illness, death, sorrow, grief or long-term care will have the opportunity to deal with it in a human way in their place of work or study.”


The soldier and the refugee

The monument will stand at the heart of the Brussels Humanities Sciences and Engineering Campus, between the Braemgebouw and The Thinker. Artist Philip Aguirre y Otegui took his inspiration for the monument from an iconic press photo in which a Spanish soldier tries to offer warmth to an African man who has come ashore in a boat full of refugees. The statue removes the figures from all physical landmarks, and what remains is the essence of the human gesture, regardless of gender, age or origin. It condenses love and solace to a humanistic and universal concept.


50 years of commemoration

VUB believes in the importance of starting this initiative in this special academic year: 50 years of history contains not only joyous milestones but also moments of intense sorrow. On 19 November at 11.00, VUB invites the whole community to gather at the monument to remember dear colleagues, students, friends and family members, collectively and individually.



19 November 2019, 11.00-11.20

Words from Caroline Pauwels and Marc Van den Bossche.
Ceremony and music.
Chocomilk and glühwein.


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