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Letter from the Executive Board and the deans

Published on 23-11-2023 09:00
In recent weeks, we have been watching with dismay the situation in Gaza and Israel, with increasing numbers of innocent civilians falling victim. These events also impact our academic community. Students and staff with ties to or origins in the region are deeply concerned about the safety of their families, friends, and loved ones.
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At the same time, we observe a hardening of the discussion within the university. Some students and staff believe that the university should have explicitly spoken out against Hamas' attack on 7 October, while others think the university should speak out against Israel's responses.

The role of the university

In recent weeks, we have been asking ourselves what the role of the university should be in this complex situation. Our conclusion is that we do not want to take a stance. Not because we are unmoved by the fate of the many victims on both sides of the conflict, quite the contrary. But because, as an organisation, we do not want to take political positions. Our university should provide a home for debate and criticism, within our rules. It cannot fulfil that function if we, as an organisation, take an explicit stand ourselves. This is all the more true when, as now, there is a complex and deep-rooted conflict where there are different views on causes and solutions. Everyone should be able to form their own opinion, choose not to have an opinion, or choose not to discuss the matter within the university.

It is the university's responsibility to analyze the conflict through our scientific expertise and to participate in the public debate in the media. We also aim to provide space for discussion within our own community, through meetings and lectures, for example during teach-ins and dialogue sessions. It’s not easy to conduct a debate when participants have such high emotional involvement, but there is a responsibility on every participant to treat each other with respect. Even if you don’t share the other's point of view at all. After all, diversity of views is very important in scientific debate. Fortunately, we found that, in most cases, participants are willing to listen to each other. We are confident that the same will be true in the future.

A safe environment

We see it as our shared duty to ensure the safety and well-being of all our students and staff. We are a university where everyone should be able to feel at home, regardless of origin or religion. Unfortunately, we hear that students and staff sometimes no longer feel safe within the walls of our university. This is especially true for students and staff of Jewish origin who experience the threat of growing antisemitism. But students and staff of Palestinian origin also struggle with unsafety and discrimination. Let's state this clearly: intolerance, hate speech and discrimination, on whatever grounds, have no place at the UvA. To ensure a safe environment even now, it is important that teach-ins and other debates or lectures related to the conflict are registered in advance. The university is not a political organisation. We would therefore like to point out that political demonstrations are not allowed in our buildings; there are other places for this.

Let us therefore be considerate of each other, respect each other and each other's views, despite our differences, and thus ensure that we are truly an inclusive community. And, together, sincerely hope that the ceasefire agreement holds and soon leads to a de-escalation of the armed conflict.

The Executive Board and deans,

  • Agneta Fischer, dean Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
  • Andre Nolkaemper, dean Amsterdam Law School
  • Geert ten Dam, President of the Executive Board
  • Hans van Goudoever, dean Faculty of Medicine
  • Hans Romijn, dean Faculty of Dentistry
  • Jan Lintsen, Vice-President of the Executive Board
  • Leon van de Zande, Secretary General of the University of Amsterdam
  • Marieke de Goede, dean Faculty of Humanities
  • Peter Paul Verbeek, Rector Magnificus
  • Peter van Tienderen, dean Faculty of Science
  • Roel Beetsma, dean Faculty Economics and Business

Need support or want to organise something?

We understand the need to be able to talk about these horrific events at the UvA too. There is space on the campuses to have conversations with each other about the background and context of this complex conflict. The Central Diversity Office offers supportExternal link if you want to organise a conversation yourself. When organising an event, keep in mind the UvA's rules, guidelines and code of conductExternal link and do not forget to submit an application to Facility ServicesExternal link. Together we can examine whether and what risks there might be and what measures can be taken to reduce those risks.

If you are a student or staff member affected by this situation and need support, more information can be found here: Help with crisis situations - student.uva.nl or contact one of the confidants: Contact a confidential counsellor - student.uva.nl.