Students set to vote on ending strike

PMO offers students veto on Shochat recommendations; previous vote postponed.

Students zion sq 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Students zion sq 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Leaders of 34 student union organizations are set to meet Sunday night to reach an agreement on the latest proposal to end the strike and resume studies in Israel's universities. The student strike continued Sunday after the National Student Union, which represents the majority of the country's students, decided the previous night to postpone the vote on the latest compromise offer from the Prime Minister's Office. The PMO's proposal to end the five-week strike that has shut down most of Israel's universities and colleges offered student representatives one groundbreaking achievement - veto power over Shochat Committee recommendations. Representatives of over thirty campus student unions had planned to vote on the offer at the end of a meeting on Saturday night. However, the vote was postponed early Sunday morning after dozens of demonstrators, who were opposed to the PMO's offer, stormed the room where the meeting was taking place, preventing discussions from continuing. Student leaders from Ben Gurion and Tel Aviv universities had already rejected the proposal. The student strike was triggered by the establishment in November of the Shochat Committee to formulate recommendations for reforming higher education. Among the issues the Committee has examined were tuition policy and student loan schemes, angering student leaders who noted that the committee did not include a single student representative. The Shochat Committee's preliminary report is due by the end of May. According to the compromise, immediately following the submission of the recommendations and before the Cabinet meeting whose approval would make the policy recommendations the official and funded policy of the government, student and government representatives would have met to discuss the recommendations. "The discussions will end in agreed-upon recommendations that will be given to the Cabinet," read a copy of the compromise offer obtained by The Jerusalem Post, effectively handing student groups veto power over what the Cabinet will be voting on. After an initial discussion of the offer among student leaders on Friday, "I thought they were going to accept the offer," one representative of the National Union of Israeli Students told the Post on Saturday. "But today, after hearing from [the student unions of] Ben-Gurion University, the Technion and Haifa University, who are opposed to accepting the compromise, I don't know what they will decide today." The offer includes the freezing of tuition for the coming 5768 academic year at the current level of some NIS 8,500. It also promises that the current semester would not be canceled and that students would not be penalized despite having missed over one-third of the semester. On condition of "the implementation of the Shochat recommendations as agreed in the cabinet," the compromise includes a return of over NIS 1 billion to the higher education budget that has been cut over the past seven years.