‘Wrong’ investments and the duration of the protesters’ stay: Five questions about the encampment (part 2)

The Harmonie square has now been occupied by pro-Palestinian protesters for nine days. Here are five answers to five pressing questions.

Protesters claim that since 2022, the University of Groningen (UG) has invested one million euros in companies contributing to the war in Gaza. The university asserts this is ‘pertinently untrue’ since it has not been allowed to hold shares since 2016. Who’s telling the truth?

While it is true that the UG has not legally been allowed to invest university money in shares since 2016, the situation is more nuanced. The university has foundations, such as the Groninger University Fund (GUF), which are formally independent with their own statutes and board. However, UG president Jouke de Vries and rector Jacquelien Scherpen sit on the GUF supervisory board, and the fund’s purpose is to finance university projects and research, funnelling money back into the university.

Unlike the UG, the GUF is allowed to invest its money. According to the fund’s annual reports, this includes the one million euros the protesters refer to, invested in companies like McDonald’s, KPN, and Starbucks, which the protesters claim are complicit in the Gaza war. 

Two years ago, it was revealed that some of the GUF investments were made in weapons. The treasurer explained to UKrant that they did their best to prevent this, but it can never be completely ruled out.

In other words, the UG does not invest directly, but is closely involved with the GUF. And the investments of the GUF are not always entirely transparent.

The protesters argue that a number of student associations are funded by Thales, a company that makes a lot of money from weapons systems and also contributes to the Gaza war. Can’t the university do something about that?

No, says the UG: it cannot interfere. ‘All our student associations are foundations and therefore independent, also in the choice of who and which company sponsors them’, says a spokesperson. ‘The faculty is not allowed to dictate anything to them.’

Despite the protesters’ demands to sever such ties, the university has not indicated any intent to do so. How long do the protesters plan to stay at Harmonie square?

That response remains the same as at the beginning of the demonstration, as a quick tour of the camp shows: they will stay until the university meets their demands – disclosing and severing all ties with Israeli institutions. The demonstrators are determined to stay as long as necessary, and the municipality maintains its stance: as long as it remains peaceful and traffic safety is not compromised, they are allowed to stay.

From other demonstrations and protest groups, we know they often use an escalation ladder: a plan detailing increasingly drastic actions step by step. What is the next step for the demonstrators?

The group does not wish to share possible next steps. However, it became clear on Tuesday afternoon that more actions seem to be on the horizon. The Lustrum Week was opened on Broerstraat with a baking competition and a speech by rector Jacquelien Scherpen. During the opening, a dozen demonstrators stood in front of the University Library. They shouted slogans and loudly blared a megaphone siren. When the group returned to the camp, they were greeted with applause at the tent camp.

Are all university faculties equally represented among the protesters?

Protesters hail from various faculties, but most are from inner-city faculties: the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, and the Faculty of Philosophy.



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