Bar-Ilan Anglo students storm administration building

Students demand lower prices for test translations, claim unfair conditions for immigrants; university: "They should be thanking us."

Bar Ilan Anglo protest 311 (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Bar Ilan Anglo protest 311
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Dozens of English-speaking Bar-Ilan University students demonstrated in front of the university administration building on Monday, demanding rights promised to them as new olim.
Wielding signs with slogans like "We left our families, what more do you want?" and "What? I don't understand you," the students rallied after the administration raised the price of translating exams into English to NIS 285, and limited the translations to first-year students alone.
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According to Rachel Sarafraz, the director of the Bar-Ilan ESC (English Speaking Community), a Student Union-sponsored group, test translations had been given to any student who made aliyah in recent years, and cost only NIS 50 per exam, but the price rose every year over the past four years.
"Sometimes students need to translate four or five tests in a semester, and it adds up to a huge amount of money," Sarafaz lamented. "Every year they add a few shekels so that we can't argue over a 'slight' change, but if you look a few years back, the price is over five times as high."
"It's not fair that it's just for first year students, either," Sarafaz added. "Even if someone understands Hebrew, the wording of a question could be confusing or misunderstanding one word could change a question's entire meaning. Should students fail just because they're  new immigrants?"
As she spoke, English-speaking students played guitars, handed out cookies and chanted "What do we want? Translations! How do we want them? Cheap!" When passing Israeli students asked Dina Rappaport, a second-year Sociology and Anthropology student from New York, what the demonstration was about, she had trouble explaining it to them in Hebrew.
"I'd really like to have my tests translated," Rappaport said, in English. "Even though I'm trying, I still struggle with Hebrew. This rally isn't about the difference between an 80 and a 90 – it's about whether I pass or fail."
Daniel Mendelson, who hails from London and studies in Bar-Ilan's pre-college program for new immigrants, said he's debating whether to continue at Bar-Ilan or switch to Herzliya's Inter-Disciplinary Center (IDC), a private college that offers degrees in English.
"This definitely affects my choice," he said. "To do this to English speakers just isn't fair. At least at IDC I'd have the option of taking tests in English. At least I won't get highjacked by the university. Here they're just trying to make money off of us!"
After rallying for half an hour, Dovid Levine, a second-year Logistics student originally from New Jersey, led the students in storming the administrations building. "We gave you this building, we'll take it back!" he yelled into a megaphone, running through the halls. "More than half of the donation money comes from Anglos. You do not want to make us angry!"
When the students reached university CEO Haim Glick's office, security asked the group to leave.
"Bar-Ilan is the only university that translates tests for students, and the cost of professional translation is between 500 and 1600 shekels, depending on the type of test," University spokesman Haim Zisovitch explained. "We subsidize a large part of the translation – all the students need to pay is 270 shekels, and it costs the university a lot of money."
"The students want the translations to be cheaper or even free, and it just isn't reasonable," he said. "We're a public institution that needs to fund itself."
Zisovitch added: "We could have been like Tel Aviv or Hebrew University and said if you take classes in Hebrew, you can take a test in Hebrew. Instead of saying thank you, the students are protesting."
Zisovitch said hiring student translators in order to lower prices is not an option, and Student Union spokesman Orel Lahav that "they won't give us the tests for security reasons. Plus, one year they had students studying translation work on the tests, and they were terrible."
"The university needs to know that it's responsible for the students, and they can't shake off that responsibility," Lahav said. "They can't tell the student olim that they're giving them an advantage and then cut it off in the middle. They're changing the status quo."
Last year, the administration raised the price to NIS 300, and after a similar demonstration, the price was lowered to NIS 270, a price that Sarafaz said is unaffordable for most students.