Lecturers take aim at university heads

National Labor Court has yet to decide on whether to issue back-to-work orders against the lecturers; both sides to appear in court on Wed.

University 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
University 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
While representatives of university faculties battled their presidents in court on Monday, a grassroots protest movement calling for the ouster of those presidents was gathering steam. While the lecturers have little chance of actually getting a sitting president dismissed, they have begun circling protest petitions and passing resolutions in at least five of the country's seven major universities. At a series of general assemblies of the senior lecturers over the past week, almost all of them have adopted a resolution calling for the removal of the president. Last week, the Technion and Haifa University adopted such resolutions. On Tuesday, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is set to hold its own assembly and may adopt a similar resolution. In addition to the resolutions, some form of protest aimed specifically at the presidents has begun at the Technion, Haifa University, Hebrew University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Tel Aviv University. The procedure for removing a president varies from university to university, but if the Hebrew University is representative, then the lecturers' chances of success may be scant at best. In response to a query from The Jerusalem Post, Hebrew University spokeswoman Orit Sulitzeanu explained the procedure. "The executive committee may, on the basis of a request signed by two thirds of the administrative committee or two thirds of the senate, and after hearing from the president, decide with a majority vote of over 70 percent of present members and participants to end the president's term. The decision would take effect at such time as determined by the executive committee," she wrote. Considering the fact that the administrative committees of all the major universities came out in strong support of the presidents on Monday, there seems to be little practical chance for this movement to succeed. But that is beside the point, Prof. Shmuel Peleg of Hebrew University's Committee of Senior Lecturers told the Post on Monday. "Rationally, this won't help. Emotionally, I'm hurt. We were all insulted. They crossed a red line [by taking us to court]," he said. Peleg was quick to point out that the effort at Hebrew University was a private endeavor and was not officially endorsed by the Committee of Senior Lecturers. Peleg said the senior lecturers' general assembly would discuss the issue on Tuesday and predicted that the meeting "would be interesting." The computer science professor also said he was not opposed to court proceedings per se. "We accept the court's mediation. The problem is the back-to-work orders [that the presidents asked the court to grant]," he noted. Meanwhile, the Senior Lecturers Union (SLU) and the Committee of University Presidents (CUP) both presented their sides to the National Labor Court. The meeting ended inconclusively late Monday evening, with a follow-up scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. While National Labor Court President Steve Adler did eventually issue back-to-work orders to the striking high school teachers, he has generally preferred to try mediation rather than ending strikes immediately by court order.