“We work and study at this university,” explained doctoral candidate Zouhair Hammana from Erasmus School of Colour (ESoC). “We want to feel safe here. Once you notice that double standards are being applied, that one region is more important than another and thus that some lives are more important than others, it doesn’t feel safe any more.”
That political statements and support in the form of an emergency fund are possible for the war in the Ukraine is applauded by the students in ESoC and EUC Collxctive. “These are the kind of care-centred approaches by education that we always wanted to see,” they wrote in a letter to the Executive Board. The university’s attitude is described as ‘showing selective solidarity, hypocritical and racist’ by the letter writers.
On Tuesday the students held a sit-in at campus Woudestein. This protest was aimed at the EUR. Last year, the university did not want to condemn Israel’s actions when the Gaza strip was being bombarded and Palestinians were being forcibly evicted by Israel. The Palestinian flag and pro-Palestine banners were not permitted to hang as a protest on the façade of the EUC. The university’s policy would not permit the building to be used for political statements.
The protest and the letter coincide with the Israeli Apartheid Week. Since 2005, attention is drawn during this week to ‘the Palestinian liberation struggle and to other situations involving racism, oppression and discrimination’. Meetings are organised around the world at universities and other places. This year Rotterdam student and other organisations joined the movement. On Monday and Tuesday they attended protests in The Hague and Utrecht.
Dear EUR, act(ion still demanded) II
“The claim of being a university that ‘empowers people to speak out against racism,…
Reaction of Executive Board
“We would like to be clear about this,” wrote Rector Magnificus Annelien Bredenoord in a response to the two organisations. “We deplore all conflicts in the world where there are victims, human rights are violated and/or minorities are disadvantaged. We stand for peace and respect.”
The university also issued two statements explaining why they are now making a statement about the Ukraine. “The suffering is now close by because the Ukraine borders directly on the European Union,” stated the first one. The second echoed the condemnation of the Russian aggression by the Dutch government and the European Union. The Minister of Education called on educational institutions to suspend all links with Russia. “The EUR responded to this call in conjunction with the Universities of the Netherlands.”
Read the entire letter from the ESoC and EUC Collxctive below.
Over the past couple of days, numerous higher educational institutions — from universities to university colleges, to universities of applied sciences —have issued statements of support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We think it is great that educational institutions are making their support and solidarity public to their students and staff. We also think it is great that they offer resources and possibilities of postponing deadlines to students and staff that are affected by the war in Ukraine. These are the kind of care-centred approaches to education we would always like to see.
At the same time, we cannot look past the selective solidarity, hypocrisy and racism of educational Institutions that have previously claimed neutrality. To illustrate, a year ago, during the brutal bombing of Gaza and the continued dispossession and displacement of Palestinians from their homes, various student and staff collectives, and individuals, asked these same institutions for a public (endorsing of a) statement in support of Palestine. We were met with answers such as: “we cannot issue a statement in support of Palestine, because then we would have to issue statements in support of everything that is happening in the world” or just bluntly “no.” In 2020 a Palestinian student’s flag was confiscated by campus security. A year later, several banners dropped at EUC, WDKA, and the Piet Zwart Institute were taken down for expressing political statements on university buildings because institutions “cannot give the impression that we take sides”1, which is not a paraphrased excerpt, but a direct quote from staff representing the above-mentioned institutions.
Currently, around the EUR campus, there are several flags and banners that express the
university’s solidarity with Ukrainian scholars and students. Simultaneously, WDKA students are encouraged to attend a student-organized workshop to make banners in support of Ukraine: highlighting that the university can indeed promote these kinds of student initiatives. The same attitude was not taken towards students who voiced their solidarity with Palestine. Instead, they were directed to sources that could “offer participants insights about some of the historical and contemporary complexities that are often overlooked in the media”2 so that they could “prepare” for a discussion in which they experienced continuous silencing.
Palestinian students who could not focus on their course work because of the brutality, viciousness and nefariousness done unto the people of Palestine would have to go to unreasonably extra lengths to prove that they indeed were not in the right mindset to hand in a paper on time. These are clearly double standards. Double standards we have seen from media coverage on refuge and refugees to various railway companies offering free transport and countries opening up their borders to Ukrainian refugees, to our own universities extending their support and solidarity to the people of Ukraine. None of these aforementioned things were ever offered to refugees from the Global South. Nor have these universities ever extended their support and solidarity to countries from the Global South. We cannot but conclude that these extensions of grace, humanity, civility, care, and love are extremely racialized.
We stand with the people of Ukraine, as we have stood with the people of Palestine, the people of Yemen, the people of Afghanistan, the people of Somalia. We stand with all those facing the brutality of war and the devastation of death, dispossession and displacement which accompanies it.
We will hold the university accountable. Their response sets a clear precedent that the
university is capable of issuing statements of solidarity and support and that it is capable of
having a care-centred approach towards students and staff. We ask the university to keep that same energy and to not (re)produce selective, racialized solidarity and support. Solidarity should not be dependent on people’s proximities to whiteness and Europeanness.
With all this in mind, we reiterate our demands and we urge institution(s) to reflect on their
hypocrisy and double standards and extend the solidarity they offer white, European bodies to all individuals.
Reiteration of demands:
● Boycott and divest from companies and institutions that sustain the (settler) colonial
violence done unto the earth and unto life
● Cut ties with Tel Aviv University
● Cut ties with Ban-Ilan University
● Demand from the ABP to divest from Israeli companies
● Demand from the ABP to divest from companies investing in Myanmar junta
● Cut ties with Shell
● Take diversity and inclusivity seriously, beyond the marketing/PR level
● Take decolonisation seriously, beyond its uses as a metaphor
● Take Black life seriously, beyond the empty statements
● Take the dismantling/abolition of patriarchy seriously
● Take the dismantling/abolition of heteronormativity seriously
● Take the dismantling/abolition of racial capitalism seriously
● Take the dismantling/abolition of coloniality seriously
Here are some links which can serve as reminders to previous student and staff attempts at
reaching out to the institution:
EUC Collxctive and Erasmus School of Colour