In a message to all UCD students and employees this morning, University President Orla Feely refused to take a stance on the war between Israel and Palestine – citing academic freedom concerns.

In the email, Professor Feely says “I have received requests to commit the University to particular (and distinct) positions in relation to the conflict. It is not my policy to express positions on behalf of UCD in respect of geopolitical issues.” She added, “Were it to be our practice to take an institutional position on geopolitical matters, we would be inhibiting the freedom of members of our community to express their individual positions and suppressing our ability to sustain and respect a diversity of views.”

Feely continues to say “That I do not issue statements on geopolitical matters should not be interpreted as indifference to the suffering of those within our community or in the wider world – I am deeply affected by the suffering and loss of life at the present time. Rather, in the face of what will often be conflicting views and local and global tensions, it is a path to focusing on the particular responsibilities of the University and maintaining both academic freedom and an inclusive intellectual community where civil discourse on divisive issues is possible.”

Prof Orla Feely - Photo credit to The Irish Times
Prof Orla Feely – Photo credit to The Irish Times

UCD has taken an institutional position on geopolitical matters in the past. In a President’s Bulletin on the 1st of March, 2022, Professor Andrew Deeks said “To be clear, UCD deplores and condemns the action of the Russian Government and military in invading and attacking the people of Ukraine. This act of aggression is a violation of international law and is completely unjustified.”

The long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine recommenced on the seventh of October with a sudden attack on Israeli civilians by Hamas militants. This has been followed by a merciless assault on Gaza by the Israeli military and the continuous bombardment of Israel by rockets launched from Palestine. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens by the day.

UCDSU stands with Palestine.

Since 2018, the UCD Students’ Union has been a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a Palestine-based movement promoting boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions against Israel. In a recent statement, the Union called upon international powers and the Israeli Government to bring about an immediate ceasefire and bring the campaign of genocide to a halt. They also called for an end to the “violent occupation” of Palestine. The statement concluded with a recognition of the deep emotional toll of the violence on students from impacted communities and stands in solidarity with students facing heightened levels of Islamophobia and Antisemitism.

Similarly, the Dáil has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire from both sides, and the support for the Palestinian cause across the government is widespread. 

President Orla Feely concluded the email by saying “My priority is to ensure a safe, supportive and respectful environment in UCD, in which views, even on topics of intense polarisation, are shared with civility and consideration. I trust that I will have your support in this.”

Emma Hanrahan – Co-Editor