Bennett advances new ethics code banning professors from expressing political views

The code also forbids academic institutes from cooperating with NGOs that are politically affiliated.

June 10, 2017 01:27
2 minute read.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett

Education Minister Naftali Bennett. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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Education Minister Naftali Bennett is advancing an ethics code for universities and colleges that would prohibit lecturers from expressing their personal political views during class.

According to the document, that 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.

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.”

“Full academic freedom – yes. Promoting political agendas by lecturers in the academy – no,” he said on Thursday. “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.

“This matter isn’t against any political side, it applies to both Left and Right – so there is no reason to object,” he added.

The code would also forbid academic institutions from cooperating with NGOs that are politically affiliated.

There would be sanctions for violating the code. If a professor advances his political views in class and students complain, he would be summoned to a hearing at the school’s enforcement unit. If the complaint is found to be valid, an “educational note” would be placed on his record. If it happens again, “disciplinary measures” would be taken, according to the code.

MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) condemned the proposal, saying it is yet another step in the competition among right-wing politicians for “who can silence the most people.”

“He must show his [Bayit Yehudi] constituency that [Culture and Sport Minister] Miri Regev [of the Likud] is not the only one,” Margalit said. “Bennett is a part of the right-wing mind-set that sees silencing voices and the absence of a free discourse as a goal.

“Subjects such as abortion, prostitution, minorities’ rights and the view of the majority are just like debating the [occupied] territories.

Bennett want a castrated academy with terrified lecturers,” he said.

MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said that advocating this kind of code indicates that Bennett and Kasher do not understand the essence of academic study.

“Politics is an inseparable part of life, and so is the debate over it,” Shelah said on his Facebook page.

“It should happen everywhere, freely, and especially in a place that is all about thinking and debate.”

Regarding the idea of forming “enforcement units” to prevent political activity in class, Shelah said: “This bizarre thought police will not work. It is against everything that the academy stands for.”

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