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Sels in mail about Gaza conflict: 'We are a university, not a political institution'

'We have students and colleagues from both communities. We try to accommodate and support them as best we can.'
'We have students and colleagues from both communities. We try to accommodate and support them as best we can.'

In a mail to the KU Leuven community, rector Luc Sels responded to the current conflict in Gaza. The rector warns against polarization and calls for dialogue.

Gepubliceerd

The rector emphasizes in his e-mail – which has also been published as a blogpost – that the university should be a safe place for all students 'regardless of their origins, background or beliefs.' Sels wants to encourage KU Leuven students and staff not to import the conflict to KU Leuven.

'We are a university, not a political institution', Sels states clearly. He also emphasizes that he will not take a certain position nor pick sides. For him, quiet diplomacy and respectful debate prevail.

'This situation calls for inclusive and open communication instead of judgmental and polarising opinions'

Luc Sels, rector KU Leuven

'We have students and colleagues from both communities. Israeli or Palestinian, we try to accommodate and support everyone as best as we can', says Sels. 'That care should be given priority, which requires inclusive and open communication instead of judgmental and polarising opinions.' Furthermore, he declares that the university supports the call to seek a peaceful solution and condemns all forms of violence.

Questions about partnerships 

The mail got sent after the debate about the academic cooperation with Israeli universities flared up in the last couple of weeks. That collaboration was criticised because the universities in question work closely together with the Israeli army. An open letter, signed by more than 700 academics, was published, pleading fot a boycott of the Israeli universities.

On an individual level, KU Leuven decided to suspend the collaboration with the Bar-Ian university.

Sels’ communication implies that this demand will not be fulfilled for the time being. Nevertheless, he does not fully exclude this possibility: 'Tomorrow's situation will undoubtedly be different from today's. Positions evolve and inspire policy.'

On an individual level, KU Leuven decided recently to suspend the collaboration with the Bar-Ian university. The ethical commission will not approve new research projects with the Israeli institution.

KU Leuven could not specify why and when that precisely happened. However, there are still three projects ongoing with Bar-Ilan. The two most recent projects started in June 2022.

As of now, Veto could not find any research projects directly or indirectly contributing to the conflict. You can find more information here.

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