Provost’s update: responding to recent events on campus

A message from the Provost to all’UCL staff and students.

Thank you to everyone who has been in dialogue with me following my last messages in early May and last fortnight  about our approach to managing protest on campus, and wider issues connected with the Israel-Gaza conflict. 

In each of my messages, I have spoken of the need to balance rights and responsibilities on campus during this difficult time. I have been clear that the right to protest, debate, and challenge ideas, is fundamental to our role as a university, and I have outlined the steps that we are taking to ensure this right can be upheld across the campus in a legal, safe and respectful way.  

But upholding the right to protest must, of course, be balanced with our primary responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of our community. The right to protest is not without limits, and we have been unambiguous that we will not support or facilitate protest that descends into hatred, harassment or violence.  

Regrettably, over the past few days, we have seen unacceptable behaviour from some protesters that has no place in our community and will not be tolerated.  

A series of end of year awards and events last week, organised by students with the support of Students’ Union UCL, were intended to recognise the dedication of the thousands of students that commit to the volunteering, sports clubs and societies that are such a vital part of student life outside the classroom here at UCL.  

With the help of a number of external members of the public, a group of students that have been protesting on the Main Quad with tents and banners deliberately targeted these student events.  

Their activities were intimidating and escalatory, including the physical assault of members of UCL security staff, damage to property, and reports of unacceptable antisemitic tropes in chants. I want to assure you that we are taking immediate action against this behaviour and have instigated disciplinary proceedings against those students involved. If necessary, we will report any criminal behaviour to the police. 

Students and staff in attendance have reported feeling unsafe and scared on occasions that were intended to acknowledge their hard work and represented a culmination of their year’s achievements. I am very sorry indeed that that was the case. 

As the safety and security of our community is our top priority, and in light of the unacceptable behaviour of these individuals, we have reviewed the activities and events planned across campus over the rest of this week until the end of term (Friday 7 June) to consider any additional mitigations that may need to be put in place. In some cases, we have taken the difficult decision to postpone or cancel events. In the case of the Education Awards planned for this Wednesday, we have agreed with the event organisers and Students’ Union UCL to postpone this to a later date. 

Moving forward, we are currently considering further appropriate action to ensure the safety of our community. I call for us to treat one another with respect and compassion during this challenging time.  

I appreciate that these are difficult issues for many members of our community. As usual, I look forward to hearing your thoughts about how these important and complex issues should be handled, and remind you that full details of how to access support available are here, along with further information on how we are managing the protests. You can always write to me at    

Michael Spence  
UCL President and Provost 

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