Students, faculty and educators from the Hebrew University gathered for a peaceful demonstration on Sunday, protesting the intended budget cuts to the Faculty of Humanities and mass dismissals of nontenured staff.
The protest, which garnered some 30 people, marked the most recent clash in the months-long skirmish between the Nontenured Research and Academic Staff Union and the university.
Earlier on Sunday, ahead of the protest, the union announced it would intensify its actions and declared a general strike.
The nontenured faculty said it would refrain from any actions relating to their teaching duties during the final exam period, including refusing to attend the exams, meet with students or grade final tests and papers.
At Sunday’s protest, students gathered alongside high-level faculty members and Prof. Esther Sarok, head of the union, holding signs and chanting “Don’t Forget the Good Teachers.”
“This protest was to spread awareness” Sarok told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “The students have to tell them [the university]: ‘We have to finish the strike,’” and “‘We have to stop it now, before the next round of firing.’” Earlier this year, the university announced budget cuts totaling some NIS 2 million to the Faculty of Humanities – a decision leading to the dismissal of around 80 lecturers and faculty members, as well as cutbacks in teaching hours and courses.
According to Sarok, the budget cuts have affected staff and students alike.
Students protested to show support, and a refusal to stand by, while hardworking and deserving teachers are mistreated, and classes that they enjoy taking are discredited, she said.
“I understand that the university is in a deep financial problem, because of the government and the situation,” she explained.
It was “impossible,” however, for the higher level faculty to decide which staff to dismiss, as some of the teachers had been with the university for years, she added.
Sarok said one of the main problems is that the prolonged in-fighting between the administration and the faculty is ruining the university’s image and standing.
“The university is my life, but I don’t like the way it is run,” she concluded.
“We just have to sit down nicely, sit down honestly and find a way to solve the issue.”
On Saturday evening the university issued a statement on its Facebook page, saying that exams would continue as scheduled on Sunday.
“It may be that in a number of exams teaching staff will not be present to answer questions. In these cases it will be possible to record your question or comment in the notebook exam,” the university wrote. “The university is sorry for the inconvenience... and is operating in all possible ways to prevent and reduce the harm to students.”