Concerns and manifestations at the university – update 3

As administrators of Radboud University, we are deeply affected by the terrible violence and human rights violations in the Palestinian territories and Israel. In connection with all the profoundly indignant and concerned voices of students and staff members, we are looking for a valid and sustainable policy that provides our university with direction and support in this terrible and devastating situation. The core question now is: how to translate our university engagement into a joint responsibility that we can and want to bear together.

Weighing partnerships

As explained in the previous Executive Board message, we are currently developing a policy line to assess partnerships in coordination between the Executive Board, deans and participation bodies, aiming for a Partnerships Advisory Committee that that will help out with this assessment. This is in addition to Radboud University’s knowledge security advisory team and to the assessment framework for sustainability, which will help to determine whether the goals of cooperative agreements with partners contribute to UN sustainability goals

With the Partnerships Advisory Committee a crucial aspect is added: we will consider the extent to which partnerships are possible with institutions that are located in large-scale conflict areas and/or where human rights are being violated. Such a consideration starts with contacting such institutions with which Radboud University has cooperative partnerships, while simultaneously fixating these partnerships in the existing form. This means: no expansions, extensions or new partnerships until more clarity has been obtained about partners in such an area in terms of internationally recognized values ​​of academic freedom and respect for human rights.

Sharing concerns

The situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories is such that the above step is acute. To be concrete, this means: to start, this week, administrative contacts with partner institutions to share our grave concerns and to sort out moral and ethical issues, including the rejection of human rights violations and the liberty for students and scientists to express their opinions on this matter. What importance do we attach to institutional ties with universities there, for example in terms of contacts with critical scientists, and what does that mean in the current circumstances? All this is important in considering whether continued cooperation at institutional level is possible.

University core values

In terms of policy, the aim is to create an integrated assessment framework with the Partnerships Advisory Committee within Radboud University, on the basis of which cooperative agreements with institutions can be evaluated for standards of academic freedom and scientific integrity, knowledge security, and ethical aspects, including the prevention of human rights violations and the contribution to sustainability goals. This is another way in which we will actively promote our university core values. When determining the content, scope and working method of this integrated assessment framework, we take into account concrete experiences that faculties have with their partnerships, while participatory bodies also play an essential role; and of course we also coordinate our policy with other Dutch universities and UNL.

Individual partnerships

We do not believe in stopping all individual cooperations with educational institutions in a particular country. Cooperations between researchers (or teachers and students) and between research groups in areas where human rights violations are in order can in fact contribute to pursuing (scientific) goals beyond the hostilities, and thus also maintain an open line that makes critical voices audible and support them. As said in the previous Executive Board message, individual scientists also make their own decisions in this regard.

Guiding principles

Finally. Both academic freedom and responsible governance are guiding principles in university collaboration. The deep anchoring of these values ​​in our university means that our organization and regulations are robust and obdurate: that is good, because they are supposed to last long and must be valid in all kinds of contexts. Under the high tension of acute circumstances and clearly heard voices, we are striving for a new balance between freedom and responsibility - a balance that must be carefully safeguarded in solid policy. Staying connected has always been a strength of Radboud University and we will tackle this together. Everyone is needed.

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

Heleen Murre-Van den Berg, Paula Fikkert, Roel Schutgens, Sijbrand de Jong, Guillén Fernández, Evelyn Kroesbergen, Saskia Lavrijssen – Deans of Radboud University