According to reports, The University of Haifa rejected a proposal to grant Professor Robert Aumann, a Noble Prize laureate, an honorary doctorate. The right wing Institute for Zionist Strategies, where Aumann is a contributing member, speculates that the honorary title was denied because of political considerations. Sources implied that the right-wing views of Professor Aumann contradict the values of the institution.
Political considerations, of course, play a role in decisions to award honorary degrees. Still, over the years, the University has labored under the perception of being the home of a small but radical faculty group.
In an age where tertiary education budgets are shrinking, universities depend more than ever on donors. The donor base was badly dented by the Ilan Pappe debacle in early 2000s. As well known, Pappe defended Theodore (Teddy) Katz, an MA candidate, whose finding of an alleged massacre in the village of Tantura in 1948, led to a libel law suit. Pappe used the international network of pro-Palestinian scholar-activists to call for an academic boycott of Israel, a move that prompted British academics to initiative a decade-long boycott of Israel.
By denying Aumann an honorary degree, the University sends a message that it has not moved to mend its financial base. Like any public institution, Haifa University has a fiduciary responsibility to the public and the students to provide the best possible educational services. This mission cannot be accomplished without increasing the flow of outside contributions - something that the leadership needs to ponder when trying to improve its low standing as a research university.
The timing of the two cases creates the unfortunate perception that Leshem's political opinion is somewhat more compatible with the values of Haifa University. The university needs to act to dispel this impression, not to mention that the latest imbroglio will alienate desperately needed donors. Given that its donor base has not recovered from the Ilan Pappe fracas, this should be of urgent importance.
Report: University of Haifa denies professor honorary doctorate over politics
Rejecting Professer Robert Aumann because of his political beliefs is an "unacceptable phenomenon," says the Institute for Zionist Strategies after Haaretz reports that the University of Haifa denied Aumann over politics.
The University of Haifa's Executive Committee decided not to grant an honorary doctorate to Professor Robert Aumann because of his political beliefs, Haaretz reported last Friday. The university explained that Aumann -- winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics -- holds right-wing political positions that contradict the university's values.
The university awards an honorary doctorate every year for outstanding achievement in the sciences, academic initiatives and philanthropic and public activities. Last year, the university awarded the degree to Professor Dan Shechtman, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry; and singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi, among others.
Adi Arbel of the Institute for Zionist Strategies (Aumann is a contributing member of the organization) dismissed the news, saying the honor was unimportant to Aumann.
"There's no doubt that this makes no difference to Nobel prize winner Professor Yisrael [Robert] Aumann. But this unacceptable phenomenon raises questions about the way decision-making was done in the past, at present and in the future. It's clear to all who the current decision has slighted," said Arbel.
The University of Haifa issued a statement, saying, "The process of choosing candidates to receive the honorary doctorate is a several-phased process. Only at its end are the recipients announced and reasons offered. The process is not over yet. Deliberations are internal and not meant for publication."