UCD Professor Ben Tonra has resigned from his position as Vice Principal in the College of Social Sciences and Law for Global Engagement in response to the statements of the University’s leadership to the invasion of Ukraine and the role of the Confucius Institute on campus. 

In a series of tweets, Tonra explained that he is resigning with “immediate effect” as it is clear to him that he does not “share the values underpinning UCD’s global engagement strategy.”

However, he went on to clarify that he will continue in his role as a Full Professor of International Relations at the UCD School of Politics and International Relations and the UCD College of Social Sciences and Law where he is “privileged and proud” to serve.


The statements in question were posted by UCD yesterday afternoon and said:

“University College Dublin joins the Irish Government and wider society in its concern with the situation in Ukraine, and in particular with the violation of international law and the unnecessary and tragic human suffering and loss of life.”

Speaking exclusively to the College Tribune, Tonra elaborated on his disappointment in the university saying:

“It goes beyond the statement, the statement was the final straw, I have spoken to [unnamed] colleagues who indicate that there was genuine reluctance on the part of the university to make any kind of a stronger statement with respect to Ukraine simply because of their fear that it would set a precedent for any questions or comments relating to the Confucious Institute and the Irish Institute for Chinese Studies. 

So in other words, they were afraid that if they gave ground on the issue of Ukraine that they would be challenged and have to give ground with respect to the issue of the Confucious Institute and the Irish Institute for Chinese Studies. And that just encapsulates what I think is a serious problem for the university which goes beyond a departing President and speaks to an issue that is systemic and is institutionalised and needs to be addressed, not only in UCD but in broader Irish academia. And that is the pursuit of a globalisation strategy which is motivated purely by income, untethered and unconnected to any sense of academic values and freedom.”

“Look at the statements issued by any other credible international universities and compare and contrast it to that of UCD, you don’t need me to tell you what the problem is”

Earlier this morning, Tonra expressed that he was “deeply and profoundly ashamed” of the remarks about the ‘situation’ in Ukraine which refers to the unsolicited invasion of Ukraine by Russia on the 24th of February. 

Several areas in Ukraine came under attack on Thursday morning after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a “special military operation” and warned of bloodshed unless Ukrainian forces lay down their arms. 

The move came after months of speculation about Russia’s intentions as the country has been tightening its military grip on Ukraine since last year, as it was assembling troops, equipment, and artillery on the Ukrainian border. 

Fears heightened late last year as Russian deployments of troops and tanks were emerging in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries. Last week, these troops poured across the border from Belarus and Crimea, and on Thursday morning missiles were fired on multiple cities, including the capital Kyiv. 

Fighting has continued in the days since and military-aged men have been ordered to stay in Ukraine while others have fled westwards towards Poland and Romania. 

Emma Hanrahan – Deputy News Editor

One thought on “VP of Social Science resigns over UCD statement on ‘situation’ in Ukraine

  1. You might mention that Prof Tonra is a director of the Irish Defence and Security Association, a lobby group for the arms industry in Ireland.

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