Wednesday, 22 May 2024
WorldThe protests over Palestine reveal university precariousness and its ties to companies...

The protests over Palestine reveal university precariousness and its ties to companies in Israel

University students raise their voices for the Palestinian people to denounce the collaboration of their centers with companies that contribute in some way to Israel’s genocide in Gaza. The claim recovers the spirit of economic isolation against the South Africa of apartheid and an extensive list of international causes in favor of peace. To carry out such a measure, higher education must face financing models that reveal a sad reality: the lack of public money.

“How are we going to have an inclusive, critical and independent public university if it depends on companies that finance the genocide of the Palestinian people?” asks María, an activist from the movement. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), in statements to Public.

The students involved in the protests denounce the inaction of the universities and the administrative silence regarding the funds they receive from these firms. with business in Israel. In addition to attributing the problem to a lack of will, they also recognize in the situation a historical mistreatment of higher education.

“In 2000 there was the highest expenditure of the GDP in public universities. Since then, investment has decreased and with the 2008 crisis, very strict austerity measures were imposed that are noticeable in their financing capacity,” highlights Public Maria, activist of the movement Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which participates in university camping trips.

Universities have not taken a position on their economic relationship with companies that sponsor the genocide in Gaza

The CRUE (Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities) reported this Thursday on its intention to review agreements with Israeli educational and research centers, and suspend relations with those that do not take a firm stand for peace.

The statement does not mention anything regarding companies linked to Israel and who sponsor the Palestinian genocide. Although Public has asked the organization, it has refused to make additional comments to the media.

Breaking ties with private financing

For him Madrid Interuniversity Block, in charge of organizing the camps, the position of the rectors are nothing more than “empty words.” The student representatives stressed on Thursday their demand to break ties “without reservations”, also in the economic sphere, with those companies that “finance the genocide against the Palestinian people.”

In Spain, students pay an annual tuition fee to study at a public university. For a complete course in the 2022-2023 school year, students paid an average of 936 euros —15.60 euros per credit—, according to data from the Ministry of Universities. However, this money only covers a small part of the center’s expenses.

In the case of the Complutense University, “the income from tuition fees is equivalent to more or less 15% of the budget,” the BDS activist tells this medium. “The main source of financing in all public universities is that provided by the autonomous communities themselves,” she adds.

Regional financing is the most important

This is also indicated by a CRUE report that compares financing between the years 2008, 2013 and 2019. Public money, on average, covers around 80% of the university budget. By autonomies, the BDS activist points out that some territories such as La Rioja or Cantabria contribute almost 90%, “but in Madrid or Catalonia, they barely exceed 70%“. These communities are “the ones that mistreat public universities the most,” denounces the activist.

“Madrid and Catalonia are the communities that mistreat the public university the most”

“The accounts don’t work out,” María criticizes in statements to this medium. Although all higher education centers have agreements with private companies, there is greater dependence “on the autonomous communities that implement a neoliberal and privatized public university model, since this generates a financing deficit,” she laments. It is above all the banks that meet this need.

Last April, the Board of the Faculty of Political Sciences and Sociology of the Complutense University (UCM) asked the rectorate to suspend the center’s account with certain banking entities “for financing the fossil industry and the arms industry involved in the genocide on Gaza.”

The fight for Palestine reveals local problems

The interference of banks and other entities with universities is just the tip of the iceberg. These same signatures are also the ones behind “evictions, the arms industry, the fossil industry, the climate crisis and a long etcetera”, points out Public. The camps function as a prelude to the serious problems in Spain, since they allude to the responsible agents who “expel the most precarious students here and cause damage to us.”

In reality, this kind of Realpolitik —or cross-border social action— shows the material problems suffered by local citizens. “The fight for the freedom of the Palestinian people is absolutely intertwined with the struggles of our territories“, highlights María. And specifically, the university campers focus, through anti-Zionist protest, on the precariousness of higher education and research in Spain.

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