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Ben-Gurion University
In an article in Haaretz the director of the CHE appeals: "Stop the attack against the CHE"

Editorial Note:

IAM has periodically reported on the efforts of radical scholars and their supporters to dissuade the Council of Higher Education (CHE) from implementing the 2011 decision to correct problems with the Department of Politics and Government at BGU.  Since our last report, the International Studies Associationthe Canadian Sociological Association, the Canadian Political Science Association sent petitions along with the American Studies Association.  

On several occasions IAM indicated that the campaign against the CHE was unprecedented in the annals of higher education; it involved the mobilization of dozens of professional organizations and hundreds of scholars. The appeal to the international community was based on misrepresentation and manipulation of pertinent facts and limited understanding of academic freedom in democracies.     IAM's Executive Summary of Academic Freedom in Comparative Perspective clearly indicates that the Israeli academia enjoy a much higher degree of both institutional and individual freedoms.  Quality evaluation of departments and programs is routine in the three comparative cases - Germany, Great Britain and the United States - and censure and even closing of departments and programs is not unheard of.  It would be inconceivable for the president of a public university to appeal to the international community to undermine the accrediting authorities.  It would be even less acceptable for public university to use taxpayers money to mount a legal and public relations challenge of the kind that BGU had engaged in.

The campaign of misleading has continued in Ben Gurion's University appeal to the CHE.  Two points stand out in this respect.   

The first pertains to the new hires. Two of the new faculty, Michal Givoni and Ayelet Harel-Shalev are not new; they have served in the Department as adjuncts.  One of the hires- Michal Givoni- is described as an expert in political theory who specializes in continental European theories.  In reality, Givoni received her doctorate in philosophy from Tel Aviv University under Adi Ophir; she has worked in the radical branch of critical theory known as "moral witnessing."  As posited by Givoni, witnessing should go beyond factual and objective to encompass the hidden evils of the occupation of Palestinians

Second, BGU contended that the CHE had overstepped its authority in interfering with the conduct of the Department. A glance of the footnoting of this opinion reveals that it is also based on the writings of Chaim Ganz, a law professor from Tel Aviv University, and his followers.  Nowhere is it mentioned that Ganz is a critical law professor whose expansive vision of academic freedoms is not universally accepted in Israel.  In fact, Ganz attacked Amnon Rubintsein, a highly respectable authority on civil and academic rights, when the latter urged certain limits on individual freedoms.  It should be also noted, that retired Supreme Court Justice Yaacov Maltz in his Report on Higher Education decried the expansive institutional and individual freedoms, calling them harmful to the universities and to Israel's national interest.  Many of Maltz's recommendations for reforming the system were not implemented because of fierce opposition of Ganz and like-minded faculty.
Finally, in the public relations campaign against the CHE, BGU faculty and their supporters had falsely stated that the changes carried out in the department satisfied the head of the international committee, Professor Risse.   Much to their embarrassment, Risse had participated in the meeting on October 30, which gave the University three weeks to rectify the problems.

The following is a translation of an article in Hebrew by Moshe Vigdor, the director of the CHE, published in Haaretz.   

Stop the attack against the CHE

Moshe Vigdor

An unprecedented attack against the CHE is taking place in the last few weeks where red lines are crossed such as creating intervention and petitions, including from abroad. Most of those who came out against the CHE are unaware of facts and did not read the reports before adding their names to the negative chorus;  others promote agendas regardless of what is happening and are fed disinformation.

It all began with a report of an international Quality Evaluation committee of the CHE which analyzed the standards of political science departments in Israeli universities -  part of a process of quality analysis which the CHE has routinely carried out . 

A report that was written by seven expert professors, four of them from abroad, pointed at shortcomings in  other political science departments; their assessment of the Politics and Government department of BGU was especially harsh; it pointed  to severe  academic defects in the core offerings;  the committee found them unbalanced in terms of theoretical approaches and research methods,  deemed the curricula not satisfactory and faculty research mediocre, a fact that was hurting students.

The committee noted that if the shortcomings are not be fixed, the university would have to consider closing the department.
The University promised to fix the problems.  In a recent discussion of the subcommittee on Quality of the CHE  it became clear that large part of the recommendations were not implemented yet. It turned out that most of the new hires did not comport to the recommendations of the international committee and the problems of the core offerings  were not corrected.

The sub-committee proposed that the University should fix  the shortcomings and did not mention closure of the department, although it made clear that enrolling  new students would be conditioned on  implementing the recommendation.  

Today the appeal of BGU is going to be heard and it will get the opportunity to react to its intention to fixing the shortcomings.  The chairman of the international committee  will be present the international After years that the department went downhill academically, as the report pointed out and the university did not act to prevent and fix, the University has a chance to act itself and fix the shortcomings.

Meanwhile Ben Gurion University launched  an irresponsible attack against the CHE, while getting help from lawyers and public relation firms which caused harm. It is unheard of that a letter by a  head of an Israeli academic institute is forwarded to elements abroad including professors, professional unions and institutions against the CHE and against the state - this and more, even before the CHE discussed the issue and before it the issue was resolved.  The  result was an imported and unnecessary attack against the CHE.

The CHE which is responsible for the standard of the academy in Israel, and it is taking its responsibility with great care, professionally and with great attention. Of course it is easy to criticize  the recommendations of the committee for quality assessment claiming it amounts to political interference or lacks  authority, than to improve the academic standards in a thorough and hard manner.

Universities in the US sometimes go through re-accreditation and no one will claim  interference due to hidden motives. When a certain department is not qualifying to academic standards, it is either fixed or loses the authority to give academic degrees. Recently a department of statistics was closed down in one of [ Israeli ?]   universities because it did not comport with  academic standards and it was not considered a blow to academic freedom.

In the heat of the debate there were questions  about the benefit of having a CHE, its right to exist, its legitimacy and the scope  for its intervention. The CHE is responsible for dealing with various issues in the system of higher education, while assuring academic quality.  The CHE professionalism, analytic ability and independence are essential for the higher education system is Israel which is still relatively new and has unique features.  Diminishing the involvement of the CHE in  higher education can lead to academic chaos and negative phenomenon in the planning field and academic standards. It should be left to the CHE and the members of the committee to make decisions according to the law, without foreign interference within or without - for the academic system and academic standards and for keeping academic freedom.

The writer is the director of the CHE


די למתקפה על המל"ג

משה ויגדור 30.10.2012 

מסע חסר תקדים נגד המועצה להשכלה גבוהה (מל"ג) מתנהל בשבועות האחרונים, ובו נחצו קווים ונעשו מעשים שלא היו כמותם - כמו יבוא של התערבות ועצומות הכוללות גורמים בחו"ל. רבים מהיוצאים נגד המל"ג אינם מכירים את העובדות ולא עיינו בדו"חות הכתובים בטרם צירפו את קולם למקהלת העוינות, ואילו אחרים מקדמים אג'נדות בלי קשר לאירועים וניזונים מדיס-אינפורמציה.

הכל החל בדו"ח של ועדת בדיקה בינלאומית של המל"ג, שבחנה את רמת המחלקות למדע המדינה במוסדות האקדמיים כחלק מתהליכי בחינת איכות שהמל"ג מבצעת מעשה שגרה. דו"ח שכתבה ועדה בת שבעה פרופסורים מומחים, ארבעה מהם מחו"ל, הצביע על ליקויים במחלקות; ההתייחסות למחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל באוניברסיטת בן גוריון היתה חמורה במיוחד, והצביעה על כשלים אקדמיים חמורים בלימודי הליבה הלא מאוזנים מבחינת גישות תיאורטיות ושיטות מחקר, בקוריקולום לא מספק ובפעילות מחקר רדודה, תוך כדי פגיעה בסטודנטים.

הוועדה ציינה, שאם הליקויים לא יתוקנו, יהיה על האוניברסיטה לשקול את סגירת המחלקה. האוניברסיטה התחייבה לתקן. בדיון בוועדת המשנה לאיכות של המל"ג שנערך באחרונה התברר, שחלק ניכר מההמלצות טרם בוצעו. התברר, שרוב חברי הסגל החדשים אינם עונים על המלצות הוועדה הבינלאומית, ולימודי הליבה לא הוסדרו.

ועדת המשנה המליצה שעל האוניברסיטה לתקן את הליקויים ולא הזכירה כלל סגירת מחלקה, אם כי ציינה כהמלצה לא לאפשר את הרשמת התלמידים אלא כתלות בתיקון הליקויים. היום אמור להישמע ערעור אוניברסיטת בן גוריון, ותינתן לה הזדמנות להתייחס לכוונותיה לתיקון הליקויים. בדיון ישתתף גם יו"ר הוועדה הבינלאומית. אחרי שנים שבהן איפשרו למחלקה להידרדר אקדמית, כפי שהצביע הדו"ח, ולא פעלו באוניברסיטה למנוע ולתקן, יש לאוניברסיטה הזדמנות לפעול בעצמה לתיקון הליקויים.

בינתיים פתחו באוניברסיטת בן גוריון במסע חסר אחריות נגד המל"ג, תוך כדי הסתייעות במשרדי עורכי דין ויחצ"נים, וגרימת נזק. לא זכור מצב, שבו פנייה של ראשי מוסד אקדמי ישראלי מועברת לגורמים בחו"ל, הכוללים פרופסורים, אגודות מקצועיות ומוסדות, נגד המל"ג ונגד המדינה - וכל זאת עוד בטרם דנה המל"ג ובטרם קיבלה החלטה. התוצאה היא מסע מיובא ומיותר של השתלחות במל"ג.

המל"ג, האמונה גם על איכות האקדמיה בישראל, מתייחסת לתפקידה בזהירות, במקצועיות ובתשומת לב רבה. ברור כי קל יותר לבקר את המלצות הוועדה להבטחת איכות בתואנות של התערבות פוליטית, או העדר סמכות, מאשר לשפר איכות אקדמית בעבודה יסודית וקשה.

אוניברסיטאות בארצות הברית עוברות מדי פעם תהליך של רה-אקרדיטציה, ואיש לא יטען להתערבות ממניעים זרים. כשמחלקה כלשהי אינה עומדת ברמה הנדרשת, פועלים לתיקון, או להסרת ההיתר האקדמי לתת תואר. באחרונה נסגרה מחלקה לסטטיסטיקה באחת האוניברסיטאות בארץ משום שלא עמדה בסטנדרטים אקדמיים, ולא נטען לפגיעה בחופש האקדמי.

בלהט הוויכוח התעוררו באחרונה דיונים על התועלת במל"ג, על זכות קיומה, על הלגיטימיות שלה ועל מרחב ההתערבות שלה. המל"ג אמונה על הסדרת נושאים מגוונים במערכת ההשכלה הגבוהה, תוך כדי הבטחת איכויות אקדמיות. טובת מערכת ההשכלה הגבוהה בישראל, שהיא ברובה צעירה ובעלת מאפיינים ייחודיים, דורשת מל"ג מקצועית ובעלת יכולת ניתוח והחלטה עצמאיות. הקטנת מעורבות המל"ג בנעשה בהשכלה הגבוהה עלולה להביא לאנדרלמוסיה אקדמית ולתופעות שליליות בתחום התכנון והרמה האקדמית.

יש להניח למל"ג ולחברי המועצה לקבל את החלטותיהם על פי החוק, בלא התערבות זרה מבית או מחוץ - לטובת המערכת האקדמית והאיכות האקדמית, ולמען השמירה על החופש האקדמי.

הכותב הוא מנכ"ל המל"ג


Haaretz Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Amid censure of left-leaning politics, Israeli university urged to 'rectify faults'

Over the years, some of Ben-Gurion University's Department of Politics and Government's staffers have been labeled radical leftists and accused of calling for an international cultural, academic and political boycott of Israel.




By Talila Nesher | Oct.31, 2012 | 7:00 AM |  1    


The Council for Higher Education has given Ben-Gurion University's Department of Politics and Government three weeks to rectify perceived deficiencies before it decides whether to shutter the department, which the right-wing Im Tirzu organization has criticized for its "anti-Zionist tilt."


The CHE's Quality Assessment Subcommittee on political science and international relations yesterday deferred a decision on the department's future. The subcommittee told the university department to submit a written commitment to correct purported deficiencies noted by an international evaluation committee that it said had not been addressed, before it reconvenes to consider the department's future.


Last month the subcommittee recommended effectively shutting the department down, but after the university appealed the recommendation, the matter came back before the panel yesterday.


Over the years, some of the department's staffers have been labeled radical leftists and accused of calling for an international cultural, academic and political boycott of Israel.


More than a year ago the CHE set up an international committee headed by Prof. Thomas Risse of the Free University of Berlin to evaluate the departments of politics and government at eight Israeli universities. The committee recommended a series of changes at BGU's Department of Politics and Government, including enlarging its faculty and broadening the range of study in the discipline's core subjects. As a result, the department added three staff members and revised academic programs.


In a statement yesterday, the Be'er Sheva-based university said it presented data at the hearing that demonstrated that there was no real criticism of the department, and that its curriculum is highly diverse and accepted by highly-regarded experts in Israel and abroad. "The university," the statement continued, "will not accept any decision that leaves the threat of closure hanging over the department. However, the university will continue to cooperate with the CHE to ensure the department maintains a high academic level."


In September, the CHE subcommittee went further than Risse's group and recommended that registration of students in the department as of the 2013-2014 academic year be halted, effectively leaving it without a future. If ultimately the subcommittee stands by its recommendation to close the department, the move would require ratification by the CHE plenum.

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