UCT motion to boycott Israeli-linked institutions fall short of votes

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university will provide further updates on the matter at an appropriate time. Picture: LEON LESTRADE

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university will provide further updates on the matter at an appropriate time. Picture: LEON LESTRADE

Published Mar 14, 2024


Cape Town - The University of Cape Town (UCT) Senate has concluded a vote on a motion calling for an academic boycott of persons and institutions linked to Israel, with the results indicating that the motion was unlikely to pass.

A member of the Senate, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the motion was heavily debated.

“Members of the Senate articulated their perspectives, it was a heated debate. But Senate members gave reasons for what they think about the motion and the implications involved.

“Members of the Senate cited how the motion may impact the funding that the institution receives due to its association with certain institutions – American institutions and Israeli institutions.

“But other members did cite that Israeli institutions to a degree are involved in what is happening in Gaza.”

Motions are usually voted through a show of hands, however, there were requests that voting be done by secret ballot.

Due to the impracticality of conducting a secret ballot in one room, it was decided that voting be done electronically through a UCT platform called Vula.

According to the individual, 60 Senate members were in favour of the motion, 75 against, and around 15 abstained from voting.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university will provide further updates on the matter at an appropriate time.

On Friday, the Senate held a reconvened meeting during which three motions pertaining to the situation in Gaza were on the agenda.

The Senate considered only one of these motions and commenced electronic voting. Senate members were reportedly given until Wednesday to vote on the motion.

“The Senate will reconvene at a later stage to consider the other two motions on the Gaza conflict. UCT will provide further updates on this matter at an appropriate time,” Moholola said.

The following motion was reportedly voted on, however, this could not be confirmed with the university.

“UCT resolves not to participate and co-operate in any events, activities, agreements or academic projects involving Israeli academic institutions, research entities, lobby groups, corporations, foundations, academic forums and entities that accept funding from Israel … until these institutions clearly condemn the ongoing genocide of Palestinians at the hands of Israel; until these institutions categorically condemn violations of Palestinian human rights and violations of international law; and until they announce their commitment to safeguarding Palestinian people’s right to life, equality and dignity.”

Those eligible to vote were those present at the meeting and who signed the register and therefore not reflective of the entire Senate body. As at January 2024, the Senate membership stood at 439.

UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF) chairperson Muhammad Anwar Adams said the motions were brought forth by UCT Senate members and/or executives and academic staff who felt that UCT should not remain silent and continue co-operation with Israeli institutions and universities.

“The academic boycott proposal was formally presented to the UCT Senate and executives last year by the UCT PSF,” Adams said.

The Student Representative Council (SRC) was in full support of the motion.

It released a statement last year, stating that the student body was supportive of Palestine and the Palestinian struggle and against what was being perpetrated by the Israeli government.

It further requested an academic boycott against Israeli institutions, academics, publications, etc, and requested that the university suggest to the government an arms embargo against Israel.

Meanwhile, University of the Western Cape (UWC) spokesperson Gasant Abarder said a discussion will be held in the upcoming UWC Senate meeting.

“A number of events and seminars have been held to discuss and raise awareness around the conflict in the Middle East and Gaza in particular.

“The rector and vice-chancellor specifically also devoted time during his graduation speeches to reflect on the crisis,” Abarder said.

A Palestine Solidarity Coalition has also been established at the university comprising professional and academic staff.

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