Skip to content
Main menu hidden.
Published: 2024-05-22

Vice-Chancellor’s response to manifestations supporting Palestine

NEWS In Sweden and around the world, students are manifesting in support of Palestine. Umeå University is no exception. Students and staff have urged the University to take a stand for Palestine, and the following is Vice-Chancellor Hans Adolfsson’s response.

The war between Israel and Hamas leads to terrible suffering among the civilian population and it is painful to follow the news reporting. Many of us hope for a fast and peaceful end to this conflict. Therefore, I sincerely sympathise with and have respect for anyone who, in various ways, shows their frustration over the situation. All of us, both students and staff, have a constitutional right to free formation of opinion and freedom of expression. These are rights that the University safeguards, and no one should ever reason to doubt that.

Simultaneously, it is crucial that demonstrations and manifestations take place respectfully, in a way that students and staff feel safe and secure regardless of their opinions. The University’s work and study environment must be protected and this is best achieved by maintaining a peaceful and respectful dialogue.

Several students and members of staff express a desire for the University to take a stand for Palestine in the ongoing conflict. The University’s task is to conduct research and education, to be a place where knowledge and ideas are exchanged – even on topics that can be controversial. Umeå University safeguards academic freedom and must be an arena free from influence from politics, religion and other external factors.

At the same time, Umeå University is a public authority under the control of the Swedish Government and Swedish legislation, guidelines and directives. As an authority, the University neither has the remit nor mandate to manifest views on foreign politics, nor push for certain foreign policy issues. We do, however, safeguard international collaboration in research and education. Through responsible international knowledge exchange, our university contributes to heightened understanding for each other and this contributes to a peaceful development around the world.

Students and staff have urged the University to act in the same way as when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But for the University to cancel all department-level collaborations with a country, directives from the Swedish Government are needed, and sanctions, which the Government introduced against Russia and Belarus. The Government has not reached such a decision when it comes to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. In line with the Swedish Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions’ position statement, which can be found on suhf.se, Umeå University will maintain the same approach in this case.

So far, the protests by the Campus Pond have been calm and peaceful. I sincerely hope that the situation will remain so. I wish that we at Umeå University will be able to continue to discuss and debate difficult and important issues without any rivalry or without the situation feeling unsafe for anyone. We neither need to nor have to be in agreement, but we must respect each other and the right to form your own opinion. Only in that manner can we build a better future, and in the end, we are all here to make the world a better place.

Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University

If the current situation on campus raises concerns for anyone, students can contact the Student Health Service and employees can contact the occupational health service.