Professor expelled from Hebrew University

Ben-Ari accused of string of sex offenses; decision overturned his previous sentence of a two-year suspension.

August 2, 2011 04:52
2 minute read.
Eyal Ben-Ari

Eyal Ben-Ari311. (photo credit: Hebrew University)

Sociology and Anthropology professor Eyal Ben-Ari at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who was accused of raping multiple students over a period of 15 years, was dismissed from his position on Sunday, the university reported.

The decision was made by an academic disciplinary court, and overturned his previous sentence of a two-year suspension.

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Ben-Ari was disciplined by the academic court, rather than the regular courts, after the state had difficulty building a case against him given the statute of limitations. The criminal case against Ben-Ari was closed in 2009.

Rumors had surfaced about Ben-Ari’s inappropriate conduct with the female students he advised as early as 2007, but it was not until a group of female students sent an anonymous letter to the university in the summer of 2008, complaining about Ben-Ari’s inappropriate behavior, that action was taken against him.

The letter was forwarded to the police, who opened an investigation. Ben-Ari was accused of raping some students and threatening to withhold the grant money of other doctoral students who refused to have sex with him over a period of more than 15 years.

“We see here a pattern of behavior in which the defendant took advantage of, or attempted to take advantage of, his students,” the academic disciplinary court wrote in its decision. “His being a charismatic academic figure with much authority and influence served to increase the students’ feelings of dependence on him and gave them the impression that their whole academic futures were in his hands – especially for those who were dependent on his recommendations for studies abroad – as someone who was familiar with their academic work.”

Ben-Ari’s main fields of research were the anthropology and sociology of the military, as well as Japanese culture and childhood education. He has written books and articles about both topics. Ben-Ari was a prominent figure in the department, as he has taught the Intro to Anthropology course to undergraduates for many years.

“The breakdown of the distinction between professional and intimate relationships brought about a grave blurring of the two areas, was detrimental to the students and to their dignity, damaged the integrity of scientific evaluations, and harmed the reputation of the Hebrew University,” the academic disciplinary court said.

Ben-Ari will be barred from advising all students in the future, despite the fact that retired professors frequently continue advising students.

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