University students protest proposed ethics code that restricts faculty’s political views

Bennett received the draft of the code last week, and it will be brought the Council for Higher Education for approval.

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June 14, 2017 23:20
2 minute read.
‘I WANT to hear what my lecturer thinks’ and ‘Everything’s political’ read signs held by Meretz supp

‘I WANT to hear what my lecturer thinks’ and ‘Everything’s political’ read signs held by Meretz supporters at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem yesterday. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Several hundred students gathered at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University on Wednesday, to protest a proposal by the education minister to bar university lecturers from expressing political views in the classroom.

“We are standing today with lecturers, students, rightists and leftists, Jews and Arabs, in protest against [Education Minister] Naftali Bennett’s ‘ethics code,’” said Gilad Bar-On, head of the Meretz party at the Hebrew University.

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“The education minister is not allowed to paralyze the academy in order to satisfy his political base. He is not allowed to turn the word “political” into a dirty word in order to shut the mouths of lecturers and students,” Bar-On said.

Meretz MKs Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg attended the protest at the Hebrew University, along with what the organizers estimated was around 250 people.

Meanwhile, students held a simultaneous protest at Tel Aviv University.

According to the proposal, which was drafted by Prof. Asa Kasher (who also drafted the IDF Code of Conduct), units would be established on campuses to enforce the ban, and students could complain to them about violations. The code would also forbid academic institutions from cooperating with NGOs that are politically affiliated.

Professors would not be able to call to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

Bennett received the draft of the code last week, and it will be brought the Council for Higher Education for approval.

The minister said the initiative is meant to separate the “academic” from the “political.”

“The academy in not a party convention, and it is impossible that students will be afraid to express their opinions in class because they fear that it will affect their grades,” Bennett said.

The proposal received widespread condemnation from academics and opposition MKs.

The Committee of University Heads in Israel, representing the nation’s seven universities, said in a statement this week that such a code “would deny institutions of higher education the freedom to set norms of behavior for academic staff members and by doing violate their academic freedom.”

The Israel Democracy Institute, an academic think tank based in the capital, said this week that the initiative “unreasonably expands the definition of what is political.”

“Such an ethical code tramples freedom of expression with a heavy foot. It would cause professors to self-censor and create an opening for pursuing and harassing professors,” the IDI said.

Udi Shaham contributed to this report.


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