Adjusted statement Executive Board and deans

Given the developments in the conflict between Hamas and Israel since the Hamas attack on October seventh, the rulings of the International Court of Justice, signals that colleagues and students no longer feel safe, and protests at universities, we feel that an update of the Executive Board’s statement of October 24th 2023 is needed. In close consultation with Deans this text has been adjusted on May 15th 2024 and is also endorsed by all Deans of Utrecht University.

Concerns about the situation in Gaza and Israel

As Executive Board and Deans, we share the concerns about the situation in Israel and Gaza. We think the human suffering caused by the violence between Israel and Hamas is appalling. We share the feelings of sadness, bewilderment and helplessness. We condemn all violations of the humanitarian law of war, and hope that this conflict will end as soon as possible. We endorse International Court of Justice rulings and UN Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to stop the famine in Gaza, urging Hamas to release all hostages and calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Collaboration with Israel and Gaza

We do not think that ending or freezing all contacts with educational institutions in a country offers a solution. We believe it is important to remain in dialogue with students and colleagues from conflict areas, as they are specifically people who can contribute to change.

We did decide to soon publish a list of existing collaborations with Israeli universities and to critically evaluate these collaborations in the upcoming period. If it appears that certain academic  ties and exchange collaborations contribute to (the continuation of) the cycle of violence, this will lead to freezing of the collaboration. New collaborations will, in light of the recent developments, be tested on the basis of our knowledge security assessment framework, which also explicitly addresses human rights and ethical aspects.

As an academic institution, we are deeply concerned about the destruction of the academic infrastructure in Gaza. Particularly because academics and students can make such an essential contribution to positive change. We shall therefore explore in which ways Utrecht University can contribute to the reconstruction of the educational and academic infrastructure. We are open to suggestions and will, together with other universities / Universities of the Netherlands (UNL),  advocate that the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) also makes efforts in this regard.

Open attitude university

From various sides we are called upon to take a (political) stand for or against one of the parties involved. In our judgement, such a stance does not fit us as a university. We offer space to share insights and information, express concerns and share opinions. Because it involves topics that deeply affect us, it can lead to difficult, uncomfortable and/or painful discussions. We strongly believe that it is essential that Utrecht University is and remains a safe place for all our students and staff, regardless of their origin, background or political beliefs. We stimulate and facilitate independent thinking, critical debate and analysis, hoping that this results in solutions, innovations and ideas on how things can be done differently. We also encourage our academics to share their expertise with society, as they play an important role in interpreting the ongoing conflict.

We appreciate the engagement of students and staff who continue to draw attention to this issue in different ways. We are glad that in various places at Utrecht University, such as within our participation councils, there is ongoing dialogue, which will continue. We ask our community to talk to each other with attentiveness and respect, from human to human. Within Utrecht University there is always room for different (academic) perspectives and feelings. Evidently this does not include calls for hatred, violence, intimidation or calls that otherwise go beyond the framework of the open society. Having (and continuing to have) open discussions with each other is even more  important now that tensions within universities are increasing.

Guideline protests Universities of the Netherlands

Demonstrating and protesting is part of our democracy. As Executive Board and Deans, we will of course continue to respect peaceful protests around the situation in Israel and Gaza. Occupying a building or grounds does not count as demonstrating/protesting and is not allowed, as is spending the night in university buildings or on university grounds. This is in line with the UNL directive (in Dutch) released on the 14th of May.

We very much deplore that the protests on Tuesday the seventh and Wednesday the eighth of May ended with the involvement of the police. Most of the students and staff complied with requests made during the protests and at some point left on their own account. That a number of people had to be forcibly removed to be able to end the occupation, feels like a defeat. We will of course look into what we can learn from the events that occurred on those days.  

Anton Pijpers, Margot van der Starre and Henk Kummeling (Executive Board)
Isabel Arends (Faculty of Science), Wilco Hazeleger (Faculty of Geosciences), Arno Hoes (Faculty of Medicine), Debbie Jaarsma (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine), Elaine Mak (Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance), Susan te Pas (University College Utrecht), Thomas Vaessens (Faculty of Humanities) en Leoniek Wijngaards-de Meij (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences)

Need help?

We are concerned with and committed to students and staff directly or indirectly affected by the current events, and offer them support. Utrecht University students who find themselves in financial difficulty as a result of the current conflict can of course apply to our Emergency Fund. Employees can additionally turn to Staff Welfare Service (intranet, login required). Students who are in need of counselling can check our decision aid to see who they can best to turn to.