Last update - 11:40 09/11/2009
Tel Aviv students afraid to challenge leftist professors
By Or Kashti, Haaretz
Tel Aviv University students are hesitant to express their political
views in class, lest lecturers perceived to have left-wing political
views penalize them with lower grades, the head of TAU's Department of
Curriculum and Instruction wrote in an internal memorandum last month.
Prof. Nira Hativa's comment in the faculty memo ignited controversy
among professors, with some declaring that her sentiments should not
be made public.
Hativa wrote: "There are no small number of students of lecturers with
left-wing views who complain bitterly that they are extremely offended
by the presentation of materials that oppose their views, but are
fearful of expressing contrary viewpoints in class, lest it harm their
In response to the uproar, Hativa, who is currently abroad, wrote
Haaretz this weekend that "the things I wrote in the context of an
internal disagreement are based on intuition and my personal
The chair of the university's students' union, Shahar Botzer, said his
organization receives a number of complaints each year from students
dissatisfied with what they view as lecturers' biased portrayal of
material in favor of left-wing positions. He said that such complaints
are the exception, however, rather than the rule.
"If lecturers express their views in class in a way that makes it
illegitimate to express contrary views - that is inappropriate and
unacceptable to us," Botzer said. "This university is founded on
pluralism and on the ability to express a variety of opinions."
Hativa's statements were prompted by a story in the Haaretz English
Edition on rightist activists monitoring lecturers who are considered
to have leftist views, as well as an article in Maariv on what it
described as the right-wing views of Daniel Schueftan, deputy director
of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa.
"At the end of each semester, I read comments from several hundred
students on the teaching they receive," Hativa wrote on October 23. "I
have come across many complaints from students about a small number of
lecturers in various fields, who express radical left-wing opinions in
their classes - that they are lashing out at the State of Israel, the
army, the Zionist movement and worse."
TAU said in response that "informal discussions are held frequently on
controversial issues, and people feel 'at home' in expressing opinions
based on their understanding and intuition. The university is an
institution where pluralism is a guiding principle."