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Right-Wing Students Afraid to Speak Up, Says Tel Aviv U. Memo

Freedom of speech? Tel Aviv U. students with nationalist views are afraid to speak because of fear leftist professors will give them low grades.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/9/2009, 12:02 PM / Last Update: 11/9/2009, 12:17 PM

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Tel Aviv University students with nationalist views are afraid to speak out in class because of fears that their leftist professors will give them low grades, a professor said in an internal memo obtained by the Hebrew-language newspaper Haaretz. The newspaper has a strong left-wing slant, and the fact that it chose to disclose the memo was considered significant.

The memo quoted was written by Professor Nira Hativa, head of the university’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She wrote, "There is 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 grades."

Most of Israel’s universities are strongly influenced by left-wing professors, and several institutions have allowed anti-Israel speeches by students and pro-Arab groups, including some associated with the rabid anti-Israeli Islamic Movement.

Shahar Botzer, head of Tel Aviv University’s student union, told Haaretz, "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. This university is founded on pluralism and on the ability to express a variety of opinions."

The newspaper said that Professor Hativa’s memo was prompted by previous articles in the Israeli media that nationalists are monitoring lectures by left-wing professors, some of whom harshly criticize the IDF and Zionist ideology.

The university formally responded that it respects pluralism and that it is a guiding principle.