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Roeterseiland Campus

Executive Board on protesters' demands

Published on 11-05-2024
Recently, pro-Palestine protests took place at several UvA locations. Unfortunately, these demonstrations repeatedly got out of hand. Both the situation in Israel and Gaza itself and the protests on campus are stirring up a lot within our academic community and beyond.
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Demonstrations

In recent times, demonstrations have taken place at various UvA locations. This is permitted and accepted at the UvA, and we find it more than understandable that people want to speak out about the situation in Gaza. Because there is one thing we all agree on: the war in Gaza is terrible and its consequences are devastating. We understand and share the feelings of anger and powerlessness.

But demonstrations should not go beyond demonstrating and take place in a way that is both socially and physically safe for everyone. Occupations, barricades, and vandalism have no place at the university. Unfortunately, there were instances of this during recent protests. Because unsafe situations ultimately arose, police intervention became unavoidable. We find it terrible that it had to come to this.

As a board, we naturally find it important to keep engaging in conversations with all our staff and students, even when emotions run high. In the hope of fostering dialogue, the board has repeatedly engaged in discussions with representatives of UvA students and staff who participated in the actions. They have put forward a number of demands to the UvA.

One of the demands was that we disclose collaborations with Israeli institutions. It is not a secret with whom we collaborate. We were and remain transparent about that. These collaborations are listed on the EU's CORDIS websiteExternal link.

Activists are also demanding that the UvA draw a line under collaborations with Israeli institutes and companies. The UvA has a limited number of student exchange collaborations with organisations in Israel. We see no reason to think that these collaborations contribute negatively to the situation in Gaza: as far as we can tell, they do not contribute to military violence or human rights violations. You can find the overview here.  

We believe that maintaining academic ties - within the established ethical frameworks, of course - may even make a modest positive contribution to the situation in Israel and Gaza. Within the framework of science diplomacy, we therefore want to keep the lines of communication with Israeli scientists open as much as possible. It is precisely in the international academic community that we find each other in scientific cooperation, and through scientific dialogue we contribute to a better understanding of each other, build bridges and transcend differences. We are therefore not in favor of severing academic cooperation without regard to content but purely on the basis of the country from which researchers come.

Nevertheless, we are always willing to discuss our collaborations. and the assessment frameworks we use to do so. The UvA has an assessment framework for scientific cooperation that also considers the moral and ethical aspects. In this way we ensure, for example, that we do not contribute to military projects or warfare. We are open to examining whether our views on such cooperation are indeed in line with our framework and to see whether our framework is now sufficiently useful to help us in the current situation. The framework already contains criteria that prevent military cooperation and human rights violations, but could perhaps be further tightened. We want to finalize that in the short term so that it can be used for new collaborations. That requires agreement from the representative advisory bodies .

We also offered to engage in discussions about this matter. Unfortunately, the offer proved insufficient for the protesting students and staff. They put forth demands that, in our view, are unreasonable and unattainable. Activists talk about severing ties with Israeli institutions involved in genocide, apartheid, and colonial violence. We believe that the organizations we collaborate with cannot be classified as such. If it were to be found that the UvA's collaborations contribute to human rights violations, we would not hesitate for a moment to immediately sever those ties.

But there is no room for discussion about this. Especially since the demand is made that all ties must be severed within two days. In practice, the demands placed on us mean that we must sever almost all ties with Israeli researchers, institutions, and companies almost immediately. We consider this to be careless and irresponsible. It does not do justice to the content of our academic work. Furthermore, it bypasses a democratic decision-making process within the university regarding collaboration with third parties.

What are we doing?

First and foremost, we want to urge everyone to continue to have the conversation with each other in a safe manner. We are an institution where we want to be able to reach agreement with each other based on a scientific dialogue or otherwise peacefully disagree.

We will continue to assess new collaborations against our assessment frameworks to ensure they meet our ethical and moral standards. And we are also willing to reevaluate existing collaborations if there is concrete reason to do so.

In addition, we will continue to work on the further development of our assessment frameworks for collaboration, particularly focusing on countries in conflict situations. We will engage in a broad discussion within the UvA on this topic in the near future.

Finally, as an institution, we strive to assist the academic community in humanitarian situations where we can. For the situation in Gaza, earlier this year, we established a fund to provide financial assistance to UvA students from the Palestinian territories or Israel who are facing financial difficulties due to the war. We also aim to provide opportunities for students and scholars from Gaza to study and work at the UvA.

More information

Check uva.nlExternal link for the latest updates and current information about the protests.