Universiteit Leiden

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Safety, responsibility and connection: especially now

We, the Executive Board and deans, have recently heard from different sources that the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to evoke strong feelings of tension, anxiety and insecurity within our university community. We take this very seriously and so are once again addressing you all.

In all honesty, we have to say that we, too, are constantly seeking the right tone and actions. And that in recent months, we, too, have been taken by surprise by certain incidents and by the strong emotions that this conflict has aroused. We want to learn from this and are prepared to reflect critically on our own stance and actions.

No freedom without safety

We are sorry that there are people who do not feel safe on our campus and we empathise with all those inside and outside our university who are facing the pain, sorrow and fear that this conflict is causing. We will therefore continue to focus our attention in the coming period on connection and safety. But we cannot do this alone. To achieve this, we need our whole university community and are therefore asking everyone to commit.

This commitment is essential if we are to exchange views and express ourselves freely, as is to be expected at a university. Discrimination and hate speech are not permitted, but the conversation is allowed to be uncomfortable at times. This makes it good to reflect on the impact of our words. As a university, we have to be able to bridge the gap between the discomfort of differing opinions and the emotion attached to topical issues.


The responsibility for ensuring a safe learning and working environment lies with us as the Executive Board and deans. Managers approach individuals or groups that fail to respect our norms and values, and discuss the situation with them, taking appropriate measures where necessary. Everyone can, of course, discuss these issues in a spirit of respect. Our researchers and lecturers can shed light on the different perspectives behind such issues as these in their teaching, their research and beyond. 


We have recently put in place possible measures to facilitate connection and discussion. A special task force has been formed to share knowledge about the conflict, including in a dossier on the websiteand support staff and students who are affected by the conflict.

Members of the Executive Board, Deans, managers and others involved have also recently held intensive and insightful discussions with Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian and Arab students and staff. Not only because the university wants to learn from their experiences, but also because we need to be able to keep the conversation going and take the time to listen to each other.

In conclusion

In this difficult time, Leiden University wants to continue to seek connection. Especially now. As a bastion of freedom, we are all responsible for making debate possible at all times, provided the discussion is conducted with respect and care, and in a manner that is safe for everyone.

Moreover, as a community, a university should be an example to society and the world. An example of how people interact with one another, even when they disagree. This is what we stand for. Gaining new insights by entering into debate with one another and, by so doing, strengthening the connections between us is what has defined our university for almost 450 years.

Annetje Ottow, Hester Bijl and Martijn Ridderbos
Executive Board

Henk-Jan Guchelaar, Jasper Knoester, Jan Kolen, Erwin Muller, Sarah de Rijcke, Mark Rutgers and Suzan Stoter
Deans of Leiden University

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