Concerns and actions at Radboud University – update 2

As administrators of Radboud University, we share the deep concern around the ongoing violence between Israel and the Palestinian territories, and the abhorrence at the many victims and countless human rights violations; we support the repeated call to end violence against innocent civilians and to allow humanitarian assistance. We see, and understand, that the situation there is cause for deeply felt emotions and engagement among many in our university community here.

In our university community, there is plenty of scope for demonstrating, making your voice heard, and having an open conversation, also about sensitive issues. We are offering and have offered that space in recent weeks. Last weekend, a second tent camp was set up on our campus. We continue to repeat that our campus is not equipped for overnight stays and does not provide adequate security. This is all the more true following the recent extension. We are receiving signals that some of our staff and students do not feel safe due to the presence of the tents, the actions in which some demonstrators have partly covered faces, and the wording of some of the slogans voiced during demonstrations. We would like to reiterate that discrimination and harassment in any form have no place on our campus. We have reported all acts of vandalism to the police. There is room for diverse forms of dialogue and action, provided they are respectful of the body, good, and spirit of everyone else on campus, and we will continue to monitor this closely.

Transparency about collaboration

The campaigning students and staff are calling on the University to be transparent. Transparency is a value we subscribe to, insofar as it does not threaten the safety and privacy of individual researchers. Information about the content of all our academic output, as well as participating partners, is available through publicly accessible sources. We are also transparent about the breadth of institutions – universities, companies, and networks – with which Radboud University collaborates in various types of ongoing partnerships within and outside our country:

Our accountability as an institution

Radboud University also wishes to be held accountable for its partnerships as a university, and in this context, we have been working for some time on setting up a Partnerships Advisory Committee. We plan to speed up this process. The objective is to task this committee with assessing the extent to which the goals of new or soon-to-be-renewed partnerships with institutions contribute to our core values, based on our mission and the principles of open science. We are working on formulating how we can assess partnerships on ethical aspects, such as human rights, sustainability, and knowledge security in an increasingly global context.

In the short term, talks will be held with faculty researchers and students that will provide building blocks for an ethical framework and the method and scope of the intended assessment. We aim to have this framework for the Partnerships Advisory Committee ready by the new academic year, and until then are reluctant to enter into or renew partnerships with institutions in areas facing war or other violent conflict. Relevant factors for assessing whether this is the case may include resolutions of UN bodies and official EU positions.

Collaboration by researchers

We see it as a core academic value that scholars are free to decide with whom they investigate which questions; this academic freedom is essential for every researcher, and it forms the indispensable engine of the global academic network. This freedom is the supporting pillar of open and viable universities. We want to stress that many scholars from countries in conflict or at war are critical of their university and/or their country. International collaboration between researchers can provide an opportunity, even in times of conflict, to maintain an open connection and allow critical opposing voices to be heard.

Academic freedom and academic responsibility go hand in hand. Each individual collaboration presupposes an ethical consideration on the part of the researcher(s) involved within the Radboud University frameworks for academic integrity around aspects such as objectives and research questions, research methods and interactions with individuals in the course of research, collaboration partners, and the dissemination of research output. This consideration for individual projects is vested in faculty administrators and Directors of Research, and supported by ethical review committees for FdR/FdMFdL/FFTRFNWIFSW and FMW; the Knowledge Security Advisory Team can also offer advice.

In conclusion

Our goal as a university is to be a curious, reflective and connected community that creates a safe and inclusive learning and working environment for people of all backgrounds, where staff and students without exception feel welcome to make their voices heard. Everyone should be able to move freely and safely on our campus and in our buildings, even when there are differences of opinion or views. We call on all members of our community to contribute to this respectful and tolerant academic community that wants to contribute to a healthy, free world with equal opportunities for all. Together with other universities in the umbrella organisation Universities of the Netherlands (UNL), we will explore how we can contribute to establishing open academic research and teaching in the affected areas, and whether we can provide tailored educational opportunities for refugee students and remotely for researchers in the area.

Daniël Wigboldus, Agnes Muskens, José Sanders – Radboud University Executive Board