Second Open Letter from the Executive Board to the VU Community

- EN - NL
To all students, teachers, and staff of VU Amsterdam:

Dear colleagues, dear students of VU Amsterdam, Earlier this week, we responded to the escalations surrounding the protests on the campus of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and in the city. These events have deeply affected us all. We are concerned for our students and staff and continue to call for peaceful protest. It is important for us as a community to make our voices heard in these times. As an academic community, we cannot but stand for human rights and a just world. It is clear that the current situation in Gaza constitutes a humanitarian crisis, where human rights are violated. What is asked of us is to unequivocally signal, as a values-driven university, how we respond to this situation. We have heard this call loud and clear and are taking action with the following measures:

1. Before summer , we will develop a framework for (international) collaborations. A clear framework with which Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam can assess its partnerships. This framework will apply not only to new but also to existing collaborations , from all’over the world. It will be based on our own values and on international standards, regarding e.g. human rights. We will assess this through a brief and intensive dialogue cycle with various cross-sections of our community. Some other universities have preceded us in this approach, such as the University of Leuven, and their experiences and solutions will serve as a starting point and an example. With this new framework, we will give substance to the deep desire to belong to an academic community that lives up to its values, especially regarding its relations with the (international) environment. This desire is one that we, as a board, entirely share.

2. Regarding the request to make public our research collaborations with Israeli universities and institutes, we’d like to point out that our collaborations at VU Amsterdam with universities in the region are (and were already) accessible through the EU’s CORDIS website.

3. From several evaluative discussions, we gather that communication regarding the teach-ins and other discussion sessions on Gaza within the VU has been suboptimal. This limits the reach of the debates. Therefore, communication around teach-ins and other discussion sessions will be expanded in the coming period. We reiterate what we have always said: we encourage academic discourse on the conflict and facilitate it both with space and professional support. We wish to engage in a respectful and inclusive dialogue, leading to insights and/or actions that we, as an academic community, can support.

4. The VU Diversity Office, in collaboration with debate center 3D, is working on a helpline with an open consultation hour for students. The aim is to provide guidance to students who feel unsafe and need immediate support. We will provide more information on this in a subsequent communication.

Finally, we call on all students and staff of VU Amsterdam to actively apply our principles of the art of engagement. Speak out and be open, show courage by standing up for what is right, but listen to others and empathize with their perspective. Work from a trust base that is built and maintained together. We will do the same. Our door remains wide open for dialogue; let’s not lose sight of each other in these trying times.