The Knesset Education Committee's attempt Tuesday to stave off a threatened strike by junior teaching faculty seemed to meet with success. Following the urgent meeting, held less than a week before the start of the second semester at the universities, it was decided that negotiations brokered by the Council for Higher Education would be held between the junior faculty and the university administrations. The lecturers agreed to wait two-week, while the talks were being held, before any work stoppages. Sion Keren, the chairman of the Junior Faculty Union, told the MKs that 5,000 academics were employed by universities as "junior faculty" and "outside lecturers" for eight months a year, and then let go without benefits during the summer. "We cannot accept that this situation continues in which we are employed as 'contractors,'" Keren said. Keren expressed optimism that as a result of Tuesday's meeting, the upcoming negotiations would be taken more seriously by university administrators. Negotiations have been held sporadically since February, but the only compromise proposed regarding work conditions was rejected by the administrators. "From day to day, we find people who have demonstrated academic excellence but who have received notices of dismissal because they have accumulated too much seniority," said Dr. Milcha Rubin, who represents the Hebrew University's outside lecturers. "This isn't a matter of people who haven't proven themselves but rather of people who are cast out of the system [even though] they are good researchers whose contributions are needed." Lawmakers expressed sympathy for the junior faculty but, nevertheless, MKs, including Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), said in no uncertain terms that students should not suffer for the policies of the university administrations. The schools' presidents, despite being invited to participate in the hearing, did not attend, and were represented instead by Tel Aviv University director-general Mordechai Cohen. Although no final decision to strike has been made, MKs called the hearing out of concern that the second semester, already delayed by the first semester's senior faculty strike, would be further postponed. The senior faculty strike - in which the junior faculty refused to participate - was the longest such strike in the history of Israel's university system, and when it was settled, university administrations warned that any further delays could lead to the cancellation of the entire academic year.