Daily Israel Report

Budget Cuts? Hebrew University Students Fight Back

Protests erupt on Mount Scopus campus after Humanities department cuts funds for second time in three years.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 6/2/2014, 5:31 PM

Protesting HUJI budget cuts, June 2, 2014
Protesting HUJI budget cuts, June 2, 2014
Flash90

Hundreds of students protested outside the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Mount Scopus campus Monday, as part of a "one-day" strike effort from the Student Union to rouse awareness over budget cuts to the Humanities department. 

"The Faculty of Humanities has been collapsing for years, as a result of several management failures," the Union stated on its website. "The University recently announced that it plans to cut another 500,000 NIS ($143,840) from the teaching budget to cover the deficit accumulated over the years."

The Union noted that the cuts will, once again, reduce the number of courses available in the Humanities department, and cut about 20% of the junior faculty.

Students - and junior faculty - stated they have had enough with the constant cuts. 

"Last year, the university cut the budget [significantly], hurting the quality of student education and causing several faculty members to suffer from pay cuts or to be laid off," the Union said. "We, the students and the junior staff, constitute the real Humanities department [. . .] we will not tolerate more budget cuts to the Humanities!" 

The union issued a fake pashkivil, or black-and-white notice sign, announcing the "death" of the Faculty and calling for all classes run by the junior staff to be canceled. 

The Moach group for staff and researchers also released a letter last week covering the full scope of the problem, whereby the junior staff explained their response over the cuts, as well as the complicated history behind the strike. 

The Humanities administration said that the cuts "are a natural and healthy process which strengthens the department," [. . .] and explained that the "termination of employment of so many professors stems from "the need to address the dynamic needs to a changing environment. What the administration did not write is that, with these cuts, it seeks to cover the debt accrued by the Board of Governors and the Humanities Faculty. By cutting two million shekel [$575,000] to the Humanities department, the university hopes to help cover some 200 million shekel [57.5 million dollars] in annual deficits. 

Last year, the Faculty cut some 300 [possible] class credits - 82 courses - and laid off some 82 professors. And how has it strengthened the department? Not at all. According to the London Times, HUJI has fallen in the past year from a ranking of world universities from 121 in 2011 to 192 in 2013. It's hard not to wonder whether there is a connection between the fall and the budget cuts which were incurred during this time. 

Despite this, HUJiI's Humanities department outranks every similar faculty in an Israeli university, and is #82 in the world. This is despite the fact that HUJI's multi-departmental rank is just #192 globally. In other words: the Humanities Department is the flagship of Hebrew University and of Israeli academia. 

Arutz Sheva has reached out to the Hebrew University Humanities department for comment. 



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