UCD: ‘Academic Freedom’ or hypocrisy?



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Since the beginning of the latest terror campaign against the people of Gaza, students and faculty at University College Dublin (UCD) have called on the university to take a firm stand against the criminal actions of Israel. Several demonstrations have been held on campus to demand a statement from UCD condemning the violence and the implementation of measures to ensure the college is not involved in any research or investment linked to the Israeli war effort.  

Finally on 20 November, after thousands of civilians had already been slaughtered by the Israeli army, UCD President Orla Feely graced the inboxes of university staff and students with a statement every bit as insulting as it is spineless. The majority of the email consists of a reiteration of the university’s anti-bullying policy, topped off with a reminder that An Garda Síochána will be contacted in the event of ‘potentially criminal [!] behaviour’.  

Disgustingly, Feely at no point makes even the slightest condemnation of Israel – managing to be even softer on genocide than the Irish Government with its brazen allegiance to western imperialism. The letter concludes with the mind-boggling assertion that for the university to comment on geopolitical matters would infringe upon ‘academic freedom.’  

This pathetic email calls to mind the controversy from early 2022 over UCD’s statement regarding the war in Ukraine. The initial announcement expressed ‘concern with the situation in Ukraine, and in particular […] the unnecessary and tragic human suffering and loss of life.’ Already we see a far more condemnatory tone than that used towards Israel. But following a wave of criticism for not going hard enough on Putin, UCD quickly clarified that it ‘deplores and condemns the actions of Russia in invading and attacking Ukraine.’ It seems taking sides in geopolitical matters only threatens academic freedom when the aggressor enjoys the support of NATO and the US!  

In reality, the only thing a condemnation of the genocide of tens of thousands of Palestinians might ‘infringe upon’ is UCD’s €566 million annual turnover and its links with American and Israeli money and institutions! Universities are not ‘independent’ bodies under capitalism; they are linked by a thousand threads to the ruling class. In Ireland, this translates to a political subordination to the interests of US imperialism.  

That’s why no amount of moral pressure can force them to take a meaningful stance against the genocide of tens of thousands of Palestinians. We must not water down our demands in a vain attempt to appeal to the humanity of people like Orla Feely. The Marxists in UCD continue to boldly call for the only solution that can bring genuine freedom to the people of Palestine: a revolution.  

Join us in the struggle for communism that will end the suffering in Gaza once and for all!