Campus crisis: Start of semester in jeopardy

University presidents, lecturers refuse to open school year if gov't withholds funds

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
October 15, 2007 23:19
1 minute read.
Hebrew University 88

Hebrew University 88. (photo credit: )

 
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University presidents renewed their threat on Monday that they would not be able to open the academic year next week if the government did not transfer some NIS 300 million to the universities as promised by the Shochat Committee recommendations. The recommendations, which deal with reforming the finances and structure of Israel's ailing higher education system, have yet to be implemented because they require the agreement of the national student unions before they can come before the cabinet for ratification. The unions, for their part, are carrying out research and seeking to negotiate changes to the recommendations relating to tuition payments. However, until those recommendations are enacted, the public universities simply haven't got the funds to pay for the opening of the school year, according to Bar Ilan University president Moshe Kaveh, who heads the Committee of University Presidents. Also Monday, university lecturers promised separately to prevent the opening of the academic year due to "stalled" salary negotiations with the Finance Ministry, a complaint they have maintained against the ministry for over a year. Senior Lecturers Union head Prof. Zvi Hacohen explained the lecturers demands: "We want compensation for wage erosion." The lecturers haven't had a new wage agreement since 2001. "In other workplaces, people are promoted every couple of years, and this translates into rising salaries," Hacohen explains. "But in academia promotions are few and rare, because rank isn't attached to salary. So if you don't raise [academics'] wages, the salary's [real value] shrinks. We want a mechanism that will automatically take care of this, and not to fight every time for the same salary." The Ministry of Finance, he added, "wants us to enter into a long-term process of examining wages. Until now, we've only managed to meet with them once a month or so, and suddenly, before the start of the school year, they suddenly have time to meet us on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It always happens this way - negotiations only begin right before a strike." The lecturers could weather a long strike, Hacohen believes. "Why not? Banks are standing in line to give us long-term loans. University professors are a safe bet for loans."

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