MAASTRICHT. Are the students in the University Council going to send a letter about HP to the Executive Board, requesting further investigation into the company, or not? It is becoming more and more unlikely.
Over the past few weeks, Observant reported on a meeting between three students from the University Council and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) that took place at the end of April. SJP argues for a boycott by the UM of IT giant HP because of “involvement in the violation of human rights” in Israel and the occupied territories. The result of that meeting was that the University Council students do not support a boycott of HP, but did feel that further investigation into HP's behaviour was necessary. The latter, said council member for Novum Thomas Vaessen to Observant, logically means that the ball was in the Executive Board's court: after all, the University Council doesn't have the means to carry out its own investigation. He did draft a letter, meant for the Executive Board.
But has that letter been sent? No, says Vaessen, and it may well never be sent. Because disagreement has arisen among them, but especially confusion about what the students have and haven't promised SJP. Where Vaessen argues that there is only one body that can carry out such research into HP - the Executive Board - Leonard Nijman (Dope), also present, sees it differently. He says that it is true that HP should be investigated further, but that it is not a task for the university. The latter should be concentrating on education and research. So as far as he is concerned, it is not necessary to send the Executive Board a letter requesting them to look closer at HP.
Nijman does feel, just like the others, that a university should not have ties with a company that does not fulfil its social responsibility. Whether HP is guilty of this, he cannot judge; this would require further investigation, but not by the UM.
The third person present at the meeting, Lilly Gasser (Novum), confirms Nijman's vision: there is no role here for the UM, but if higher institutions, such as the European Court of Justice (which is investigating the HP issue), should find the company guilty, then the UM should reconsider its position.
SJP is disappointed about this account. Founder Asiya Ahmed states that the University Council members ensured SJP at this meeting that an investigation into HP would be carried out by the UM.
Vaessen feels that an adapted letter to the Executive Board would actually be useless. “We would only be writing things that the Executive Board also feels,” he says.
The net result of everything is that, as far as HP - supplier of PCs mainly - is concerned, no action will be taken. The Executive Board is not in favour of boycotts. For the time being, HP feels that it is in no way guilty of (or assisting in) a violation of human rights; on the contrary, they stated previously.