UJ SENATE RESOLUTION (29 September 2010)

MEMORANDUM (Circular 2010/595)
DATE: 29 September 2010
FROM: Ad Hoc Committee on the Memorandum of Undestanding between UJ and Ben Gurion University 
TO: Univeristy of Johanneburg Senate
SUBJECT: The Memorandum of Understanding and partnership between UJ and Ben Gurion University

At a Special Meeting of Senate on 17 May 2010, some members of Senate proposed to sever the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between UJ and Ben Gurion University (BGU) because of the alleged incompatibility between the latter’s practices and UJ’s central values. After hearing presentations by representatives of those in favour of the proposal and those against, Senate decided to form a committee that would put its mind to the issues and make a recommendation to Senate about how to respond to the proposal.

This committee was evenly divided between termination of the MOU and continued conditional engagement. However, the committee met five times, with a view to finding a principled common ground on which a recommendation to Senate could be advanced. In developing this recommendation we were mindful that our recommendation would need to be consistently applied in other similar contexts where UJ central values were not upheld and where human rights abuses were identified.

The committee, after substantial deliberation, agreed to structure its report in three sections. Section one is an overview of the principles that should guide decision-making on institutional partnerships in general. Section two is a summary of the findings of a largely empirical investigation attempting to confirm or reject the allegations of BGU’s active support of practices incompatible with UJ’s key values. Section three applies the normative principles to the empirical findings, and makes a recommendation to Senate about how to proceed with BGU.

NB: The values that guide all UJ activities are: academic distinction; integrity and respect for diversity and human dignity; academic freedom and accountability; individuality and collective effort; and innovation (http://www.uj.ac.za/EN/AboutUJ/Pages/default.aspx).

Section 1: Principles to Guide Deliberations about International Partnerships
  1. UJ should be motivated primarily by a concern for its own interests, some of which are scholarly, and some of which are also a matter of upholding progressive values and adopting policies reflective of that commitment.
  2. To be liable for censure, an institution must engage in or support a practice incompatible with UJ’s key values.
  3. For the termination of a relationship with an institution to be appropriate, there must be evidence that it is supporting a practice incompatible with UJ’s key values, with UJ having a duty to make a good-faith enquiry into allegations of such behaviour on the part of its stakeholders.
  4. When considering termination of a relationship with an institution so as to encourage change in its behaviour, UJ should generally do so as a last resort, after having first tried more constructive options. In addition, such censure should involve the least force necessary to obtain the desired change.
  5. If UJ decides to terminate a relationship with an institution by, for example, severing a memorandum of understanding with the institution, principles of academic freedom nonetheless permit academics as individuals to enter into relationships with other academics and researchers regardless of their institutional affiliation, as long as they observe UJ’s Code of Academic and Research Ethics and other pertinent UJ policies.

Section 2: Results of enquiry into whether BGU has actively supported practices incompatible with UJ’s key values.

The committee considered a substantial amount of material before arriving at a conclusion in this regard. Some of this material was made available by the individuals who addressed Senate on the matter, while other material was sourced from individuals in BGU, UJ, and in broader Israel, all of whom were approached for assistance by members of the task team. In addition, the allegations were officially put to BGU in a letter sent to its President by the Vice- Chancellor. The reply by Prof. Rivka Carmi was also considered by the Task Team.

After careful deliberation on the documentation, the committee concluded the following:
  1. The committee was unable to establish whether or not BGU is complicit in discriminating against the Palestinian population;
  2. There is significant evidence that BGU has research and other engagements that supports the military and armed forces of Israel, in particular in its occupation of Gaza; 
  3. As a university embedded in a highly militarized Israeli society, BGU’s obligation to implement state policies, and its research and other relationships with the Israeli armed forces does have a significant impact on the society, and therefore on the continued subjugation of the Palestinian population in Israel.

Section 3: Recommendation
The Task Team held that, in light of the principles from Section 1 and the findings in Section 2, UJ should not continue with the MOU with BGU as it stands. Instead it recommends that our institutional response should be guided by the following principles:

  1. In support of the principle of solidarity with any oppressed population (a defining principle emanating from our own history), we should take leadership on this matter from peer institutions among the Palestinian population.
  2. Our engagement must encourage reconciliation and the advancement of human dignity and human solidarity.
On the basis of these principles we recommend that the Senate express its commitment to UJ’s values by endorsing the following recommendations:
  1. UJ will consult the Palestinian universities on their views on the acceptability of the proposed amended MOU listed in 2 below, and will consider their views.
  2. Amend the MOU to include one or more Palestinian universities chosen on the basis of agreement between BGU and UJ.
  3. The Projects flowing from this MOU will not entail any activity, including teaching and research, which has any direct or indirect military implications or contributes to the abuse of human rights. This will be monitored by the Senate Academic Freedom Committee.
  4. Requiring BGU to respect UJ’s duty to take seriously allegations of behaviour on the part of its stakeholders that is incompatible with UJ’s values. This includes responding to reasonable requests from UJ seeking more information about BGU’s formal policies and informal practices.
  5. The amendment of the MOU referred to in 1 above be implemented within 6 months from 29 September, 2010, which is the date of adoption by the Senate.

Should any of these listed conditions not be met, this MOU will automatically terminate on 1 April 2011, or on any other day a violation of the stated principles found to have occurred.

Ihron Rensburg (Prof) Vice-Chancellor and Principal Chairperson of Senate
29 September 2010