The University of Cape Town council turn back a senate resolution proposing an academic boycott on Israeli academic institutions

The highest decision making body at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has decided not to boycott Israeli academic institutions operating in the Occupied Palestinian territories but rather to condemn those institutions.

The original senate, which consisted of 363 UCT academics, proposed that UCT not enter into any formal relationships with Israeli institutions nor any other Israeli academic institutions enabling gross human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian territories.

This recommendation was, however, not adopted by council but instead, sent back to senate for further consideration.

“The decision [to send the matter back to senate for further consideration] is procedurally irregular and a damaging precedent,” chairperson of Palestinian Solidarity Forum at UCT Jeremy Philips told Wits Vuvuzela.

He said it “undermines the very nature of democracy and decision making and suggests an ulterior motive”.

The grounds for this decision, UCT explained in a statement published on March 30, were because “a number of issues required clarification, including a full assessment of the sustainability of the impact of the senate resolution”.

Council, despite not resolving on the matter, separately expressed their intentions “to reaffirm their commitment to supporting the rights and freedoms of all people as universally recognised under international law”.

Furthermore, they said they “condemn any acts that violate those rights and freedoms and any atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

Despite the disappointment over the decision not to boycott the institutions yet, Philips has welcomed UCT’s condemnation saying, “The status quo had always been that the university was apathetic and disinterested, and now it is clearly taking some stance in favour of human rights”.

In addition, the council resolved to call on all academics and academic institutions to support this resolution and reaffirm the institution’s commitment to academic freedom. But, it reserved the right to dissociate itself from academics and academic institutions that support and/or enable the violation of human rights.

Adam Haupt, a Professor of Media Studies and a member of UCT senate, told Wits Vuvuzela that it was “disappointing that council adopted this decision to send it back for consideration because it appeared that senate, by a wide margin, was in support of this decision”, but hopefully “the door is not completely closed as it still leaves room for engagement” to move towards the boycott.

FEATURED IMAGE: Jameson Hall, University of Cape Town


Wits Vuvuzela, Wits promotes African languages, September 2018