Statement about Gaza leads to turmoil during meeting Student Council and Executive Board

The consultation meeting between the Student Council and Vice Rector Rob Mudde was briefly adjourned on Wednesday when Student Council member Pravesha Ramsundersingh spoke out about the war Gaza in her personal capacity.

An activist holds a sign in front of his body during the public meeting between the student council and Vice Rector Rob Mudde. (Photo: TUDelft4Palestine)

As in last month’s meeting, the subject ‘conflict in Gaza’ was on the agenda of the monthly meeting between the Student Council and Vice Rector Rob Mudde. Student Council member Pravesha Ramsundersingh (Lijst Bèta) spoke out and read a statement.

“I have kept quiet for a long time and I know that the rest of the Council does not support this, but I want to know what risks TU Delft faces if it breaks ties with Israeli institutions and supports the people who plea for peace and condemn the violence in Gaza.”  read-more-closed

Personal capacity
The other Council members looked at each other questioningly as this was not how they had prepared the point. Upon the request of her Lijst Bèta colleague Sam de Jong to respect the procedure read-more-closed and continue with the statement that had been prepared, Ramsundersingh responded that as an elected and current Student Council member, she had a right to speak.

Before Mudde could respond, Chair Jelle Stap emphasised that Ramsundersingh was speaking in her personal capacity, and did not represent the opinion of the Council.

While Mudde then said that he respected her right to speak, he would rather that she had ‘toned down’ her statement. He said that the Executive Board is not taking a position as it represents the opinions of all students and staff members. “Your opinion is one of them. You may express your opinion, but you cannot expect that I do this for everyone.”

  • The Executive Board published a statement on 22 May calling for a ceasefire.
  • Lijst Bèta also spoke out about the conflict earlier. See here and here.

A brief discussion arose after Ramsundersingh asked why ‘no constructive meetings with the activists’ had as yet taken place. Chair Jelle Stap intervened and adjourned the meeting for two minutes.

While the Student Council members left the room, Mudde and the other people present remained seated. Including Ramsundersingh. She wrapped a keffiyeh (also called a Palestinian shawl) around her shoulders and after about a minute also went outside.

When the Council members returned, Chair Stap informed that the topic would still be discussed in original form at the end of the meeting. He continued the meeting.

Halfway through the meeting, about 10 pro-Palestinian activists entered the room. And found a spot among the other audience members. Several activists wore keffiyehs or had protest boards that they held clearly visible in front of their bodies.

When the agenda point was again discussed at the end of the meeting, Stap spoke. He asked Mudde a series of questions. He wanted to know what Mudde thought of the recently cleared tented camp on campus. Mudde said that he had ‘little thoughts’ about it. “As far as I can see, it is peaceful. As long as that continues it is fine to a certain extent.”

To the question of whether a solution can be found for the demands of the activists and the position taken by TU Delft, Mudde denied this. “They have a list of demands and there is hardly any room for compromise if their only solution is that we accept each demand.”

Stap wanted to know what TU Delft has done to find common ground. “We have had discussions, although they were more monologues,” Mudde said. He expects that the activists will also have their voices heard during the summer break. “We try to listen to opinions, but there is more than just one opinion. I find it a very difficult situation.”

Finally, Stap asked on whom the costs of damages incurred will be recovered. Mudde informed that the universities will absorb them.

Since the first protests were held on campus, activists have had three official meetings with Mudde. In two of them, Fred Keulen, Dean van de Faculty Mechanical Engineering, was also present. Ena Voûte, Pro Vice Rector of International Affairs joined the last one. Delta was present at all these meetings.

A transcript and editors’ notes do not show that there was a monologue during these conversations.

Conversations between Vice Rector Rob Mudde and pro-Palestinian activists

After the first meeting on 16 May, Michael Parent (an alias), an activist, said that he felt ‘let down’. “I am disappointed. They dropped clear hints that we had to keep it short. Hopefully we can have a real discussion next time.”

But there was no discussion at the next meeting on 22 May. Early in the meeting, Mudde announced that the Executive Board would issue a statement that day and that it sees no benefit in breaking ties with Israeli institutions. One day later, the activists put up a tented camp at the Library.

A third meeting followed on 31 May. The activists were again frustrated when it ended. It appeared that Mudde had not read a document listing the partnerships between TU Delft and ‘various organisations’, companies and universities that the activists say violated human rights. “I do not just click links,” was his explanation. Afterwards, the activists said that they had little faith in Mudde reading the document.”

News editor Marjolein van der Veldt

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