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3 May 2024

The Dean's statement about yesterday's demonstration in front of FHS

Dear Colleagues,

I assume that most of you already know that yesterday an unannounced demonstration in support of Palestine took place in the area in front of our faculty, on the plaza between FHS and the Residence Hall A. Since I was personally present there throughout the whole situation, I would like to share my perspective on happened.

The Faculty of Humanities, as well as the entire Charles University, honours academic freedoms and respects the right to free expression of opinion. Both the Faculty and the University continuously welcome creating spaces for dialogue, and the Faculty has repeatedly offered students space and support for the organisation of academic discussions on serious social and global issues. Yesterday's demonstration, however, was not an academic dialogue. It was an unannounced protest and the faculty leadership distances itself especially from the form of the event.

The organisers of the demonstration, with whom I spoke in person, were not FHS students, not even UK students. The demonstration was, in their words, "organic" and "spontaneous," aimed at expressing support and solidarity for Palestine. I encouraged the demonstrators on the spot to discuss the role and responsibility of the academic institution in global conflicts, to discuss the role and responsibility of the faculty leadership and myself as its dean. However, there was no interest in such a discussion. As much as I respect the right to express free opinion, the role of the unviersity and academic ground is different. Academia is and should be a space of mutual respect and dialogue. I did not see that at the demonstration yesterday.

The demonstrators, by covering their faces, chanting loudly and using megaphones, created a sense of threat for many of you, and to no small extent disrupted the teaching with noise. Respect for freedom of expression and assembly has, and must have, a limit and must be reciprocal. However, mutual respect for the right to express oneself was not reciprocated by the demonstrators: one of the demonstrators physically attacked a student from the dormitory, who was simply holding a hand-written sign with his own opinion, and injured him in the face.

The role of the university and faculty is to create a space for discussion on all topics, even on extremely sensitive issues. At the same time, it is imperative not to create an environment in which anyone feels threatened, attacked, humiliated, intimidated.

Academia is a ground of free expression framed by mutual dialogue, respect, understanding, trust and safety for all its members, and it must remain so. This is a responsibility we all share, and from all our positions we must strive for it. I thank all those who understand the privilege and irreplacability of free academia and academic debate, see its existence as a privilege of a democratic society, and participate in its cultivation.

I wish you all a peaceful day,

Věra Sokolová


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Charles University

Faculty of Humanities

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182 00 Praha 8 - Libeň

Czech Republic

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