Response Executive Board to demands of a group of ATD students

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Following our message to all students and staff of 13 May, which we also shared on our website on 29 May, we are publishing the following message to our community also both on intranet and here.

Dear students and colleagues,

The situation in the Middle East, particularly the horrific conflict between Israel and Hamas, continues to concern our community. The suffering caused there touches all of us.

Within the ATD, a group of students has held sit-ins over the past few weeks to express their disgust and concern in a peaceful way. As we noted in our letter from May 13, our university provides space for such actions. Freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate are fundamental democratic rights and are in no way up for debate.

During the sit-ins, the group of students presented several demands. As the Executive Board, we engaged in a discussion with the students today, 19 June. We are sharing our response with the broader community within the AHK, since we know various people within our community are interested. You will find our responses attached to this letter.

We want to emphasize again that we care deeply about our university. It is a place for art, debate, reflection, and forming opinions. It is our responsibility to facilitate this and to provide space for diverse voices and viewpoints.

Our society is changing faster than ever. Inside and outside the AHK community, important discussions will no doubt come up more often. This calls for more attention and space for respectful dialogue. In the new academic year, the directors of the academies will engage in dialogue with the academy councils, and we as the Executive Board will enter into dialogue with the University Council of the AHK to organize academy- or AHK-wide dialogue sessions addressing topics that are challenging and relevant to our role as an educational institution in a changing society.

We may honestly disagree, as long as the safe learning and working environment is not compromised. We will not tolerate disrespect from any side towards anyone. Therefore, we continue to encourage everyone to remain open to the opinions of others. Let us work together to ensure that there is always room for sharing thoughts, feelings and opinions, and that everyone feels safe, respected, and valued.

Kind regards,

Annet Lekkerkerker and David van Traa,
Executive Board

Read the response of the Executive Board to the demands of the ATD students here:
This response is supported by the directors of all the academies of the AHK

‘Demand 1. Acknowledgment of the genocide and condemnation of the IDF’s war crimes.  
Behind a false guise of “neutrality”, thus far, our school has not named this “war” for what it is: a genocide against the Palestinian people. This is no political opinion, but a fact, established by, among others, the UN special rapporteur, the ICJ (believing there are reasonable grounds for a genocide investigation), and many other authorities.’

Our response
Let us reiterate once again that we are horrified by what is happening in Gaza right now. We are shocked by the humanitarian crisis as a result of the war between the Israeli government and Hamas. In our earlier letter of 13 May, we stressed that we endorse international calls for a ceasefire, as well as the International Court of Justice ruling that Israel must ensure that humanitarian aid can enter Gaza unhindered and that Hamas releases all hostages.

The concept of genocide is also a legal term. Whether it applies or not in this context is a complex legal issue, which was raised by South Africa back in December 2023 and is now being examined by the ICJ. The ICJ has since issued several rulings, including warnings to Israel regarding the admission of humanitarian aid. We endorse the ICJ rulings and attach great importance to the investigation, as it involves careful procedures of international law. We therefore await this court's ruling on the use of the word genocide. The same applies to the judgement on the IDF's action in Gaza. We know that several parties feel that, as a knowledge institution, one can anticipate this judgement. However, we do not share the premise that we can only express our disgust at the violence of war by using certain words.

Demand 2: Condemnation of the police violence and other repressions against students.  
We demand a clear statement of the AHK against the actions of their colleagues at UvA and UU, calling the riot police on their own students as a response to a nonviolent protest. To put their students into harm’s way like this is appalling and troubling.

Our response
We disapprove of excessive police violence. We cannot assess what considerations the UvA and UU have made in deciding to proceed with a request for police deployment. Therefore, it is not up to us to pass judgment on those actions. Police deployment in this form is a decision made by the local triangle consultation (mayor, police and prosecutor). If excessive violence is suspected, the municipal council calls upon the mayor for accountability. Complaints of excessive violence by the police are investigated by the National Criminal Investigation Department (as part of the Public Prosecutor's Office), which operates independently. Ultimately, this is assessed by the district court ‘Midden Nederland’.

Demand 3. Disclose and divest
We demand a complete and fully transparent disclosure of possible academic ties to Israeli institutions, and the immediate cutting of such ties. We also demand that our school’s finance department divests from Rabobank. Rabobank, aside from investing in fossil fuels, has close ties to the Israeli military complex and invests in the illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank. This is unacceptable, and we demand the ATD’s immediate divestment.

Our response
In 2020, the AHK switched to so-called 'treasury banking'. This means that all the funds the AHK receives from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for the purpose of education at the AHK are deposited with the central government. The central government manages the funding but does not arrange payments. The latter is taken care of by the Rabobank. When entering business relationships, we always pay attention to the ethical conduct of the partner in question, as is the case with Rabobank. In 2015, we investigated whether we could change to banks such as Triodos or ASN, because of shared values concerning sustainability and other issues. Unfortunately, these banks proved unwilling to provide payment traffic for the AHK. Finding an alternative that not only meets our complex financial needs but also our ethical standards is a lengthy and complex process. It requires a thorough evaluation of potential new partners to ensure that they are both operationally and ethically sound. One thing is certain: we need a bank. In the meeting on June 19, we have discussed that we are willing to reassess our ties to the Rabobank.

Regarding ties with Israeli institutions, we have already informed our community in the letter of 13 May that we only have one academy within the AHK with an exchange programme with an educational institution in Israel. This exchange has been suspended over a year ago, due to the local situation at that time. The Erasmus + exchange possibilities with this partner will end in 2025 and cannot be renewed.

As indicated, together with other universities of the arts, we have agreed to work on an ethical framework to be able to assess international collaborations and exchanges. The development of our framework will be a joint effort within the AHK involving students, staff, academy directors and the Executive board. A committee will be installed soon to guide the development of this framework, which will start after the summer holidays.