Daily Israel Report

Lander Students Protest Against Council for Higher Education

Machon Lander students strike outside of CHE headquarters, demanding they provide options for students left without degrees.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 6/10/2014, 1:38 PM

Student strike (file)
Student strike (file)
Shaul Kaner

Hundreds of students of Jerusalem's Machon Lander (Lander Institute) protested outside the offices of the Higher Education Council in Jerusalem on Tuesday, demanding that the CHE allow them to finish the school year, and arrange options for students to finish the remaining time in their degrees. 

Last month, the Jerusalem District Court issued a temporary stay of proceedings against the college, an Israeli institution founded by Dr. Bernard Lander of Touro College but independent of the New York school for almost a decade, citing budgetary constraints. 

The employees have not received their April salaries. Judge David Mintz cited "the good will of the workers, lecturers and top-level administration" for allowing the college to function for the last two months. He said it was unthinkable for students to bear the cost of the moratorium but the possibility of bankruptcy would also be a tragedy for them.

The excuse does not hold for the students, however, who say the CHE has left them without options to finish their hard-earned degrees.

"We had just one more week until the semester ended, we invested all our energy and our fortune in our education and my degree was almost in my hand, but it slipped away from us at the last moment," Sherry, a graduate student in history and education at the college, told Ma'ariv/NRG Tuesday.

"We have handed in all the work and all assignments on time, but now when we reached the finish line, the CHE does not allow us to be tested in order to complete the degree."

"I understand that the CHE took financial considerations into account, but they must understand us, too," she continued. "Let us end the year and receive our degrees."

About 1,200 students currently study at the Lander Institute, in addition to at least 3,500 foreign students. The stay of proceedings has caused thousands of students to be stranded without a degree, protestors say.

Miriam Grabowski, one of the leaders of the protest, was also working toward the completion of her master's degree. Now, she is unsure whether all her time and effort went to waste.  

"When I signed up a place certified by the CHE, this meant - to me - that the CHE has academic and financial responsibility over the institution," Grabowski said. "As a student, I deserve to receive compensation for my financial investment here, for the academic progress that I have already made."

"There is a group of 1,200 students in different departments and different programs," she continued. "It cannot be that we each have to find our own solution to our degree program, alone."

"When we approach other institutions, no one will accept the credits we have already accumulated," she continued. "We would have to repeat all of our courses over again."

"The power is in the hands of CHE" adds Grabowski, "and we demand that they take responsibility. This degree is not only a piece of paper; there are people's lives, and we expect the CHE to acknowledge us." 

This is the second major strike to be staged against the CHE over the past several months.

In April, hundreds of Physical Therapy students across Israel staged a three-week strike against the CHE over unfair internship policies and deliberate overcrowding; several protests were launched across the country, culminating in a 1,000-person strong demonstration outside CHE headquarters that included athletes and professionals.

The strike ended in favor of the students, and the CHE vowed to shut down a private competitive physical therapy school and to limit the influx of new students to take the severely-limited internship spots. 

On Tuesday, however, the CHE gave few signs of relenting to the Lander Institute issue. 

"As determined by the Jerusalem District Court, the matter will be discussed in the CHE today (Tuesday)," the CHE said, in a statement.