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At their monthly assembly, the chancellors of Italian universities listened attentively to the speech by the President of the Italian National Student Union (CNSU) Alessia Conti. Conti represents two million students and expressed their concerns about the conflict in the Middle East.

Following the discussion, and in view of the numerous views communicated to the rectors, the CRUI (Conference of Italian University Rectors) wishes to reiterate how the entire university system is united in the demand, now received from many quarters, for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the release of the hostages seized in the inhuman attack of 7 October. The massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip since that date and the simultaneous destruction of all infrastructures, not least the universities, have now exceeded all acceptable limits. With this in mind, together with President Mattarella, the universities reiterate the urgent need to “put a halt to the chain of actions and reactions and allow a process to begin that will put an end to the massacres and finally lead to stable peace.”

“It is essential to avoid fostering escalation with aprioristic deployments,” stressed Giovanna Iannantuoni, President of CRUI, “The situation in the Middle East is complex and must be analysed as such. Real courage entails not giving in to partisan logic and instead taking sides for peace.”

Article 11 of the Constitution states that: “Italy repudiates war as an instrument of offence against the freedom of other peoples and as a means of settling international disputes.”  Moreover, it is in the very nature of a university to be a free and peaceful place, where even the bitter confrontation between opposing theses is resolved through rational argument, never violence. It is therefore the task of universities to encourage openness, in-depth study, debate and the search for solutions for civil coexistence.

With this in mind, the CRUI and the university system commit themselves, as of now, to the following actions:

1.      To continue to pay close attention to all the ongoing international crises. As sustained by President Mattarella, “the value of human dignity, of the demand for freedom, of the condemnation of oppression, of the rejection of brutal violence does not depend on the territory, the borders between States, or international relations between political parties or movements.”

2.      To intensify the work of the joint CRUI-CNR-INFN-INAF commission that has just been set up with the task of proposing guidelines on the ethical and deontological principles for the use of the results of scientific research for non-military use.

3.      To encourage broad public debate and the interdisciplinary in-depth study of international crises and their historical, economic and cultural roots, a move that has already been made by universities in recent weeks.

4.      To continue scientific collaboration with foreign universities in all countries. Breaking off agreements with universities, in fact, signals the rejection of the importance of places for reflection, critical thinking and constructive confrontation. Science and culture guarantee free spaces for dialogue, even when opinions and visions differ.

5.      To promote the universities’ UNIMED membership (Mediterranean Universities Union), a consortium which Palestinian universities are members of. Equally, supporting TESI membership (Technical Education Support for Higher Education Students Initiative), promoted by An-Najah National University, which provides financial and material aid to students in the Gaza Strip.

6.      To call for the strengthening of the Scholars at Risk and Students at Risk initiatives to fund scholarships for teachers, students and female students from Palestinian universities destroyed by the conflict.

7.      To propose the establishment of ‘Educating for Peace’, a project that allows universities to establish scholarships for Palestinian students. To promote the activation of the ‘Erasmus for Palestine’ programme in European institutions.