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Ben Gurion University: “Disciplinary Hearing for a Lecturer Calling Walla News for Academic Boycott”
Rami Shani
Walla News
26 June 2011


Students complained of lecturers who treated them as radical right-wingers. The tumult resulted in a decrease in donations, and President of Ben Gurion University Rivka Carmi declared that “there is academic freedom but there is also academic responsibility”.
“Lecturers who will call for an academic boycott will have a disciplinary hearing,” so said yesterday (Sunday) the President of Ben Gurion University, Professor Rivka Carmi. “I think that there is academic freedom, but there is also academic responsibility. If you call for a boycott you cause damage to your colleagues. In essence this means they will not publish articles. If grants are not made, research will not be allowed”. Carmi based her opinion on two articles in the university’s ethical code that was recently approved, which concern the comments of staff members.
Professor Carmi was called to the university’s Student Union in order to explain the conduct of the academic institution, in light of a series of extreme comments and in a number of cases even harm to students. During the meeting, she was forced to deal with criticism made by Student Union members of lecturers who they contend deviated from the accepted rules in an academic institution: “tTere was an instance in which a lecturer identified students who expressed themselves not to his liking and he treated them as people from the extreme right,” said Yaron, one of the Student Union members. He added that students feel threatened “as this annuls the possibility to express symmetrical opinions, as long as the lecturer can identify students and act against them.”
In another case, Yaron claims a lecturer presented the Student Union as racist, after the latter organised an appreciation event for reserve duty soldiers, and another lecturer was quoted as saying “the joints of right-wing activists must be broken, and there are such people on campus.”
“There will continue to be comments”
Carmi clarified in response that she is not willing to accept a situation in which students feel threatened. “If there are students who feel this way, I want to know in order to take care of it in the most vigorous manner possible”, she stated. Concerning the connection between freedom of expression and academic freedom, Carmi said that there exist no laws in this matter. “There is no law which defines what academic freedom is. The price of freedom of expression, of the possibility to say everything one wants to say, is that occasionally harsh and outrageous things are said. Together with this, one who violates the law must be punished. All university staff members, as citizens of the state of Israel, are entitled to express their opinions in the framework of freedom of expression.”
According to Carmi, the exceptional and extreme cases should not be perceived as the norm. “There are 800 staff members at this university. Identification with the extreme right or left-wing is negligible, and this is also true amongst the students.” Carmi added that spreading rumours about the university as left-wing, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic is causing a great injustice to the people there. “Mails received by donors in relation to such comments create a situation of decreased donations reaching us, and this creates a problem.”
In relation to the policy that will be taken by the university, Carmi said that “we are a democratic state and the university is also. There will continue to be comments, even harsh ones. Unless they will be extremist or violent, we will have to continue tolerating them
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