Hebrew U. faculty continue strike for job security

Union members say they have failed to reach an agreement with the institution’s officials on their employment status.

The junior faculty strike at the Hebrew University rolled into its fourth day on Wednesday, as the union members said they have failed to reach an agreement with the institution’s officials on their employment status.
The junior faculty union, which includes master’s students, doctoral candidates and nontenured instructors, began striking on Sunday, the first day of the spring semester, after listing a number of grievances regarding their positions.
“The university management is cutting back our instruction hours, the number of available tenured positions is decreasing, and they refuse to offer us anything more than per-semester contracts,” Dr. Esther Sarouk, who teaches at the university’s School of Education, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“We feel that people should have more security in their employment here,” she said.
Sarouk, who has been teaching at the university for nearly five years, bemoaned the lack of options for those wishing to further their academic career at the institution, and said the situation was forcing many qualified candidates to look elsewhere – including abroad – to find jobs.
“My son-in-law, who is a graduate of the Hebrew University, is now doing his post-doctorate in Illinois, because he was not able to find work here,” she said.
“But this isn’t an issue that only applies to the Hebrew University,” she continued. “It also falls on the government to provide more funding to the country’s universities. Not only is this part of the ongoing brain drain, the situation is causing entire families to leave the country.”
Sarouk added that even though “many classes had been canceled due to the strike,” negotiations with the university administration were ongoing and she hoped that a solution would be found “within the coming days.”
“There’s goodwill on both sides,” she said. “And I hope, we all hope, that goodwill will be seized upon, and that we can come to an agreement here.”
The university said in a statement that despite the strike, the semester had begun on time, although it echoed Sarouk’s hopes that the strike would be brought to a speedy end.
“We hope a solution can be found soon,” the statement read. “The university administration is in constant contact with the junior faculty union and is shocked that it chose to strike at the expense of students. The university is dealing with budget difficulties, but is making tremendous efforts to hold the academic year as scheduled. Some of the cuts were aimed at meeting budgetary goals, while not inflicting substantive damage on the students.”
A university spokeswoman added, “Changes to the staff occur every year, and the junior faculty knows that their positions can change. At the end of the day, this is the university’s decision, not theirs, and it’s unfortunate that they’ve decided to go on strike and disrupt the semester schedule.”