UCD President Responds to Palestinian Solidarity Encampment

Image Credit: UCD Press Office

In an email sent to the all-student and staff email, Prof. Orla Feely responds to the encampment set up outside of O’Reilly Hall.

In an email sent to the all-student and staff email, Prof. Orla Feely responds to the encampment set up outside of O’Reilly Hall. 

She said that she acknowledges that the deaths in “Gaza and Israel [...] have caused shock and deep distress across the University community”. 

She continued to say that “The University supports the rights of UCD staff and students to peacefully protest within the law and in compliance with university policies”. 

The President reiterated that the University has no formal investments with Israel, as confirmed by UCD bursar David Kelly, but does participate in EU research projects as a member of multi-partner networks. These EU research projects were first unearthed in a previous article by The University Observer. She concluded by saying that UCD fully respects the academic freedom of UCD researchers to continue these research collaborations thus showing no plans to cancel these partnerships. 

Finally, the President accounted for UCD’s University of Sanctuary Status, which means that it offers solace to students and academics displaced by conflict. 

She addressed students and staff and expressed her hope that “even through difficult times UCD can continue to be a place that supports open and constructive debate in an environment of inclusivity and respect”. 

The President was mum on whether she would consider calling for a ceasefire or any of the other demands outlined by UCDSU and UCD BDS. 

UCDSU President Martha Ní Riada read the statement to the students within the encampment. 

Speaking to The University Observer following the release of the statement she said: “I don't think there's much to be taken from that email; it's saying that the university is in a fine position, that they do a lot to support students and academics. But I think she hasn't read our demands properly, because there's a lot more in it than what's in her email.” 

Ní Riada then continued, “it's not something to worry us. It’s definitely still a fight, there's still a lot that we need to push for.” The UCDSU President added that she is not surprised by Prof. Feely’s response: “It’s a holding message, outlining what their position is. And even in that email, it doesn't show much of what the university is doing, and that's most of what they're doing.

But there still are those academic ties, there's still a need to review those ties and cut those ties, and to commit to an anti-apartheid university and standing against genocide and put out a public statement. They haven't even recognised the state of Palestine; in all statements from the university, it only says ‘Israel’ and ‘Gaza’.” 

Ní Riada did not rule out the possibility of further escalation. 

A representative of UCD BDS has said that although Prof. Orla Feely asserts that UCD has no investments in Israel, there still needs to be a call for a ceasefire and a stronger mention of Palestine in future communications. 

Speaking to the University Observer, the spokesperson echoed Martha Ní Riada’s non-surprise at Prof. Feely's statement: “it's a similar email to what we've seen previously [...] she didn't even mention the genocide nor the word ‘Palestine’. [The email] is very detached and not representative of what the students are saying. [Students] want this to be an apartheid-free campus, they want the university to follow the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. 

The language she used was very weak, but we're not surprised. We're also not surprised with her subtlety making a mark against us about Dignity and Respect. There have been previous comments about UCD BDS protests going against the college’s Dignity and Respect [proviso]. So we ask, where is the university’s dignity and respect when they won't even recognise that there's a genocide going on, when there's Palestinian families who have been affected by this for seventy-five years. [This email] is not gonna deter us, we're going to keep fighting: we're here to stay until our demands are met, and that's the message we're sending.” 

In the encampment, chants of “Free Free Palestine!” and “Resistance is an obligation, in the face of occupation!” begun as a response to the statement.