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News archive 2009

STATEMENT RE STUDENT PROTEST

01 Feb 2009

The occupation of a lecture theatre at the Strand campus by a number of students regarding their views on recent conflict in the Middle East has now concluded.  Throughout the occupation the College authorities and the occupying students have been in regular and constructive dialogue about the students’ concerns.

The Principal, Professor Rick Trainor, commented: 'Senior colleagues and I are pleased that the recent occupation of a lecture room has now come to an end.

As President of Universities UK (UUK) I have already made a public statement about the situation in and beyond Gaza (see note 1 below). As Principal of King’s I would also like to associate the College with that statement.  I am particularly concerned about the civilian casualties that have occurred in educational institutions, and feel that this is an area upon which the College may legitimately comment.

President Shimon Peres of Israel was awarded an honorary doctorate by the College in November (see note 2), well before the current conflict in Gaza began, and I shall be taking the opportunity to write personally to him, as an honorary graduate, about the concerns noted above regarding the conflict.  There have been calls for the honorary degree to be revoked, but I must make it clear that the Council of the College has no plans to do so.  Senior colleagues and I believe that among the reasons why such a step should not be taken is that it would have no positive impact on the peace process, but it would have a very negative impact on the College’s ability to be a centre of expertise on Middle East affairs including the peace process itself.

I acknowledge that, especially in the aftermath of subsequent events in Gaza, the Shimon Peres honorary award has inadvertently caused upset to some staff and students at King’s.  Now that the occupation in the College is over, the priority is to return as quickly as possible to full normal operations, including the sponsoring of balanced debate on the issues of the Middle East, especially in an academic context.

The College has agreed to work with the student body to support higher education in Palestine (including Gaza as appropriate) in a number of ways. We expect to work directly with the students’ union (KCLSU) to raise funds for the humanitarian effort in a student led-initiative, and to provide practical assistance in the shape of books and equipment, to Palestinian higher education establishments, where practical.

Where appropriate we also intend to build on existing links with Palestinian universities, and we will play an active role in the national initiative, encouraged by UUK, to increase scholarships for Palestinians to study in this country.  This will form part of a wider increased College academic engagement with the Middle East more generally.  The latter will for example build on the College’s involvement in ICSR (International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence), launched in January 2008, which uniquely involves collaboration between Arab and Israeli institutions.

A number of students have raised the issue of the College altering its investment policy in the context of recent events in the Middle East.  The College does not have any current direct investment in arms manufacture, and the issue is far more complex than it first appears. However, I am happy to forward for consideration by the relevant Council committee proposals by these students advocating a policy of investment which would attempt to avoid any investment in the arms trade.

In conclusion, I very much regret any distress that has been felt by any part of our diverse College community, in which naturally there is considerable variety of opinion on these matters.  I do hope that the College can continue to debate the issues of the day in a balanced and constructive manner.  As an international place of learning with a long tradition of expertise in international relations, we have a duty to do so.’


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