Update 2: Update from the Executive Board

May 17, 2024

On various campuses around the country, students and university employees have expressed their concerns about the violence and humanitarian situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. That violence is terrible and worries us. It is heartbreaking to see innocent civilians becoming victims of extreme war violence. It is natural that these images evoke emotions. At Wageningen University & Research (WUR), protests so far have been both calm and visible, with very limited disruption.

We want to give voice to all students and employees. We highly value our duty of care for all members of our community, and have open conversations with all those who express feelings of anger, powerlessness, frustration and fear.

We consider international scientific cooperation of paramount importance. Science benefits from the exchange of knowledge and students, especially in the domain of WUR, where science contributes to sustainable living within the limits of the planet.

We provide high-quality knowledge, education and research to develop and implement paths of change addressing the challenges we face such as climate change, the misuse of land and sea, biodiversity loss, and the fragility of our ecosystems.

All perspectives

We cannot do this alone. We are an independent knowledge organisation, where there is room for individual perspectives on the role of science. We need all perspectives and insights, as inclusive and diverse as they can be. Therefore we cooperate in projects with other knowledge institutes, within regulations and in line with our Principles of Collaboration.

Given concerns about collaborations in the Israel/Palestine Territories conflict area, we recently published a list of existing collaborations with Israeli knowledge institutes. These collaborations are (and already were) publicly available.

Aligning values, principles and practical support

As academics in a complex and shifting society, we need a strong, personally motivated moral and ethical compass. This is not something an Executive Board pushes upon researchers or teachers or employees. Rather, it is an intrinsic motivation to do right that drives us, as community. It is about sharing a set of values, translated into practical guidelines and frameworks.

A support system for this is in place. For example, for decision making on cooperation in education and research projects, the Principles of Collaboration offer guidance. Students can rely on support when weighing the ethical aspects of dealing with external parties for internship offerings.

Through our continuing conversations with society and with representatives of groups with diverse perspectives, we are learning and further improving the support system for decision making on collaboration within WUR.

We realise that we must prioritise creating awareness on the value and the content of our Principles for Collaborations, and will explore how we

  • Further embed our principles in standing procedures and training for academics and in education on the ability to learn and work with others outside one’s own scientific domain, institute, culture, or context
  • Provide tools and more proactively support for applying these principles such as supplying online support and extending helpdesk capacity
  • Address the additional challenge of how to apply these principles in conflict areas, and how to act on changing circumstances
  • Strengthen the procedures as described, e.g. by adding intermediate review as situation in project changes
  • Organise a Let’s Explore series on these topics.

We can only work on this when we involve our researchers, teachers, other staff and students to incorporate their experiences.

Academia in conflict areas: What we can do

Conflicts around the world severely impact all those that live and work in those areas, including academics. These conflicts also limit the free flow of knowledge between knowledge institutes and members of the global academic community. This is of great concern to our academic community, since cooperation is at the core of our way of working.

We will organise an event with and for our WUR community; an open invitation to find answers to the question how to create continuity in the academic exchange of ideas in times and areas of conflict. This event will provide a safe space for participants to discuss the challenges in such circumstances and to express support - in word and deed - towards all academics and students that are in conflict areas.

Moreover, starting the upcoming academic year, WUR will make available two scholarships per year for students from within our existing programs, specific for students from those areas.

In polarised issues, there are no easy answers. As members of the Executive Board it is our role and responsibility to listen and to offer a safe haven for all opinions, embodied in the story of WUR, our vision, and values.