CHE won’t close controversial unit at Ben-Gurion U

The Council for Higher Education decides not to close university’s controversial politics department, after months of discussion on the issue.

Ben-Gurion University campus in Beersheba 370 (photo credit: BGU)
Ben-Gurion University campus in Beersheba 370
(photo credit: BGU)
The Council for Higher Education decided on Tuesday evening not to close Ben-Gurion University’s controversial politics department, after months of discussion on the issue.
The council had decided to close the political science program last fall after some two years of investigating allegations made by right-wing organizations that its faculty was teaching students radical leftist political opinions.
After the Beersheba university appealed the decision and dozens of political leaders as well as heads of higher education institutions in the country expressed opposition to the closure, the council’s subcommittee in charge of the issue met with the program’s representatives last October and decided to grant the politics department three weeks to show a concrete commitment to changing its curriculum and incorporating more varied political approaches.
The deadline was then postponed until after the January 22 national election.
Tuesday’s decision to keep the department open came with conditions: The department will have to hire two or three new faculty members who meet criteria fixed by the subcommittee, which will also regularly control the quality and diversity of the curriculum.
Upon the university’s commitment to abide by the requirements, students registrations for the next academic year will be reopened.
BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi said on Wednesday that the institution was satisfied with the agreement.
“BGU has reiterated its commitment to work with the Council for Higher Education and implement its recommendations. The final agreement strengthens the university and benefits both students and faculty,” she said.
The Zionist organization Im Tirzu, which played a key role in pushing for the department’s closure and had called the program “disturbing” and “unbalanced,” on Wednesday congratulated the university for “accepting the conditions and the changes that the CHE [Council for Higher Education] required” and deciding to “make fundamental and pluralistic change to the political science department.”
“We thank the Council for Higher Education and Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar, for handling the issue of the problematic department and congratulate them on this achievement,” Im Tirzu wrote. “We thank past and present students for their courage and determination and we hope that this episode was the end of anti-Zionist indoctrination at Ben-Gurion University.”
The organization added that it would continue to stand besides students and Zionist values in Israeli universities.