Student protest in Carolina Park

portrait of the Vice-Chancellor in the Carolina Park

"We must protect the right of individuals to form their own opinions and stand up for them, " says Anders Hagfeldt, Vice-Chancellor at Uppsala University. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

A group of students are camping in the English Park in support of Palestine. They want the University to end all cooperation with Israel and the want Uppsala University as an organisation to take a stand for Palestine. They also want the University to cooperate with Palestinian universities and create a scholarship programme for Palestinian students.

What is the position of Uppsala University’s Vice-Chancellor Anders Hagfeldt on these demands?

“I am sure we all agree that the hatred, suffering and killing of civilians must stop, but as far as taking a position is concerned I would like to reiterate what we wrote in the Vice-Chancellor’s blog in February: that academic freedom is a foundation of the University, where everyone must be able to express their opinions and views freely and without restrictions.

If Uppsala University takes a position on individual issues, there is a risk that employees will perceive the opinion and position as one that everyone at the University is expected to share.”

Does this mean that the University will not take a position on the issue?

“I always argue in favour of the freedom of academia. The University is a community of researchers, teachers and students dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. We must protect the right of individuals to form their own opinions and stand up for them. This is why I and the University will defend anyone who wants to express their views, but the University as an organisation will not take an official position.”

How do you see the students who are camping in tents?

“We always welcome respectful debate and encourage everyone to stand up for their opinions and share their knowledge. It goes without saying that this also applies to the students who are camping and demonstrating.”

How can Uppsala University collaborate with researchers in countries at war?

“There is academic freedom but also academic responsibility. At Uppsala University, researchers are free to decide for themselves how and with whom they collaborate, provided they comply with democratically established laws and regulations. Sometimes this means that our researchers work with colleagues operating in a nation where there is war or conflict. Let us emphasise that we collaborate with academics, not nations. This is an important distinction.”

Johannes Borgegård