Optimism, cynicism mark students' return to campus

First-year students excited to finally begin studying, veterans skeptical that year will flow smoothly.

University 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
University 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Students' reactions were mixed on the 'first' day of the semester Sunday. Some of the first-year students at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Givat Ram campus were excited to finally begin their chosen course of study. However, some of the veteran students were skeptical that the year would flow smoothly, and were cynical about the success of the senior lecturers' strike. "It's like the first day of school, but I've been here for three months," one first-year physics student noted as she stood outside during a break, adding excitedly, "This is my first actual physics class." Her friend was more circumspect. "It's a little bit exciting to be going back to learning for real. But I'm concerned about the quality of the year, since everything is going to be squashed together [to fit two semesters into the time it normally takes to do one]," he told The Jerusalem Post. The excited first-year student added that she had not yet received any sort of revised course schedule or exam schedule and would have liked to know what the year was going to look like. A second-year computer science student chatting with her friend was more cautious. "There is a suspicion that maybe the government let the strike drag on so long to prevent a student reaction to the Shochat Report. They might have decided to drag it out to make it harder for us to strike to protest Shochat [because so much time has been lost already]," she said. "Now the junior faculty is threatening to strike, too." While she supported the strike, she also pointed out that the striking professors were still getting partial salaries. "Compared to the teachers, we didn't see the lecturers protesting all over the place, standing at intersections with signs. There's a sense that it was not too hard on them because they were getting paid for research. But, on the other hand, they really do deserve more. I have mixed feelings," she said. The campus itself was quiet, with students sitting on the grass talking and smoking or hurrying to their next class. The physics student said the professors had made brief mention of the strike at the beginning of each class and promised to do all they could to ensure the students received the full curriculum of the academic year. One professor had made a caustic reference to the quality of government employees, she said. Nadav Lahman, head of the student union on campus, told the Post he was having a busy day. "The representatives on Mount Scopus are meeting with the rector now about our demands," he said. Lahman listed several things they had requested to make the coming year easier on the students. "We've asked for a reduction in tuition, a special grant fund for this year, and to push off the next school year by as much as a month so that people can either work or get a break," he said. The semesters would be 11 or 12 weeks each, he said.