Victory for Bennett:
Universities will pass ethical code

Code establishes, among other things, that lecturers may not advocate a political position unnecessary to teach the subject of the course.

Uzi Baruch ,

Yonatan Zindel

Following a year of discussions in the Council of Higher Education (CHE) Policy Committee and in coordination with university heads, an agreement was reached today between the Minister of Education and Chairman of the Council for Higher Education, Prof. Naftali Bennett, and the Council of University Heads, according to which institutes of higher education will define an ethical code to implement.

The institutions will be asked to include the principles in their disciplinary regulations. The decision is based on the recognition of the supreme importance of academic freedom and excellence in Israel, while combating political discrimination in academia. The issue will be brought for a vote and approval in the CHE at its next meeting, to be held next week.

Minister of Education and Chairman of the Council for Higher Education, Naftali Bennett, said, "The ethical code was born out of a real need in the academic world, and its [goal] is simple - to keep politics out. Without changing the independence of the institutions, and while giving expression to the unique characteristics of each institution, academic freedom and freedom of expression will be preserved alongside the prohibition against calling for boycott. The cooperation with our partners in the Council of University Heads is appreciated, and I thank them for their support for this important process that will benefit every one of the hundreds of thousands of students in Israel. Momentum in the academia will continue in every field in which it is needed."

Deputy Chairman of the Council for Higher Education, Prof. Ido Perlman, added: "I welcome the important conclusion that will be raised at the Council for Higher Education at its next meeting. The conclusion is the result of in-depth work that took place over the past year in CHE, in its meetings and committees. I thank the Minister of Education and the Chairman of the Council for Higher Education for his leadership and members of the Council for Higher Education who rose to the challenge of this important task and led it responsibly and professionally, in open dialogue with all institutions of higher education in Israel," he said.

Chairman of the Council of University Heads and President of Tel Aviv University, Professor Yossi Klepter, said, "I welcome the achievement of the agreement and the fact that there is no intention of enforcing a uniform ethical code for academia, which would have harmed its character. This is an important step in safeguarding academic freedom in Israel, which is set forth in Article 15 of the CHE Law.

Within the framework of the decision, academic institutions will work in the coming year to adopt ethical codes, and will relate in their disciplinary regulations, in accordance with the discretion of the particular institution, to the following five core principles:

1. No academic boycott against the State of Israel, which constitutes an illegitimate, anti-democratic step that has signs of collective punishment and which deeply contradicts the essence of academia.

2. No discrimination, positive or negative, against students due to their political views.

3. No bias, positive or negative, against a faculty member or candidate, in the process of first appointment or promotion, and in the process of appointment or election to an academic or administrative position, due to his political views.

4. No propaganda within the framework of teaching - a lecturer cannot use his role to systematically and improperly advocate a political position that is clearly beyond what is required to teach the subject of the course in its broad context.

5. No presentation of the personal political opinion of any member of the faculty in a misleading manner, as if it were the position of the institution in which he serves.

The current conclusion is based on the decision of the Council for Higher Education in 2010 to prevent students or lecturers from being rejected, silenced, excluded or discriminated against because of their personal characteristics or views, including their political positions.