The University of Amsterdam (UvA) has apologised for its handling of an incident involving a pro-Palestinian statement made by a student at a degree ceremony.
The ceremony was disrupted when one of the business degree students called to the stage to receive his degree took the opportunity to launch into a speech in English containing the contentious phrase “From the river to the sea”, a phrase believed by some to be anti-Semitic.
He also said Palestinians resisted “in their own way” and that his was to “create a positive impact through business”.
The statement caused unrest among those present, and a Jewish family who protested about the action were faced with a barrage of comments. “My wife and I stood up and reacted,” father André van Stad told the Telegraaf.
“At that, a massive cheer erupted in the hall and, when we left because we no longer felt safe, they shouted ‘Fucking Jews’ at us, among other things.”
An UvA spokesman told the Parool it is not clear from footage of the event what exactly was said by the family but it “apparently prompted horrible and insulting comments.”
“Who did this and how many people were involved is not clear,” the spokesman said.
In an e-mail to all who were present at the ceremony the university admitted it had failed to act properly. Rather than intervening to stop the statement and harassment it had merely offered the family another room to celebrate their son’s degree in.
“We have made big mistakes in our handling of the incident for which there is no excuse. We unfortunately offered a platform for a political message and at the moment it happened nothing was done to stop it, while those who were the victims were left to their own devices,” the e-mail read.
The university has said it will talk to the student to make clear to him “this wasn’t the time or place to make a statement” and will also contact the Jewish family.
The organisation is currently working on guidelines to better handle situations of this kind, the spokesman said. “The university has to be a safe place to work and study for everyone,” he said.