Psychology building in Bar-Ilan University 390.
(photo credit: Avishai Teicher via the PikiWiki - Israel free ima)
The Council for Higher Education on Tuesday slapped Bar Ilan University’s wrist
when it nixed its doctorates-for-VIPs fast-track. Concurrently, the state
comptroller is ferreting into many other alleged infringements at this
institution, including inordinate salaries and perks.
kerfuffle connected with Bar Ilan was caused by revelations that political
aspirant and TV celebrity Yair Lapid was accepted for a PhD program at the
university without ever attaining so much as a bachelor’s degree.
one thing for an academic institution to hand out honorary titles but it’s quite
another to enable the rich and/or famous to flaunt false intellectual trophies
and glory in the highest academic degrees when they are anything but
If our society indeed places great weight on academic degrees,
then these must be duly merited and not secured overnight by an apparent sleight
of hand. The very thought that a highly regarded university should become an
accomplice to such machinations is dispiriting.
Bar Ilan, the CHL found,
was the only university to offer these curious catapults to academic
With its shenanigans, Bar Ilan is only damaging
itself. Why this happens is a question which should foremost exceedingly
trouble that university’s higher echelons, as well as its students and alumni.
All will eventually suffer from the depreciation in the perceived reputation of
their achievements and degrees.
Bar Ilan’s effrontery here primarily
devalues the degrees which genuine students earned by much perspiration,
sacrifice and many years of steadfast commitment. Bar Ilan’s apparent eagerness
to pander to the egos of illustrious movers and shakers – even if they patently
do not deserve its boost – is principally unfair to those who did honest hard
work to win their academic status.
Moreover, it is unfair to those who
failed to qualify for studies there. It isn’t easy to cross the threshold into
any of our mainstream universities. Secondary school and matriculation-exam
grades must be high, and then come the psychometric tests, replete with brain
teasers and trick questions that often have little to do with true aptitude and
But while ordinary applicants need to jump high hurdles,
well-connected sorts like Lapid get to skip all thorny requirements, parachute
to the top of the hierarchy and then impress the electorate with an instant
There’s also the issue of what kind of a background we expect
our prospective leaders to possess. We aren’t saying that all must be
professorial. Ivory tower mind-sets don’t automatically prognosticate a
necessarily superior capacity to cope with practical
Academic accomplishments clearly meant less in the state’s
earliest days, when founding fathers like David Ben-Gurion were autodidacts. But
times are changing.
Minimum prerequisites aren’t what they were and now
BAs are demanded even for some retail positions. Perhaps minimal education
wouldn’t go amiss for our politicos, but theirs must not be counterfeit
accomplishments or fictional personal histories.
Back in 2007, the entire
county rocked with revulsion when it emerged that Israel Beiteinu’s rising star
Esterina Tartman claimed to have a master’s degree while she was only in the
midst of her graduate studies –in another special Bar Ilan program.
repercussions were so harsh that Tartman’s appointment as tourism minister was
withdrawn. She lost her position as faction chairwoman and was censured by the
Knesset’s Ethics Committee. Her political career was aborted and she disappeared
Lapid’s lapse is of no lesser severity. In some ways it’s
We expect our potential leaders to exhibit a modicum of integrity
and scruples. It cannot be that one who seeks to legislate for us and direct our
affairs would countenance different standards for himself than for others. That
is as unconscionable as cheating on exams.
Lapid’s background as TV idol
and columnist does not – and should not – confer upon him the right to enjoy
exceptional consideration and a different starting point than accorded to
The fact that Bar Ilan deemed that singular criteria apply
to some (not all) journalists and to some (not all) authors is
We congratulate the CHL for ordering Bar Ilan’s “special PhD
track” to be discontinued.