A disciplinary tribunal reprimanded two Ben-Gurion University students on Wednesday for taking part in a protest over May's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla and said it would suspend them if they repeated their actions.
One of the students, Ran Tzoref, said the "harsh and disproportional penalty would bar students from political activism."
This week, the Be'er Sheva-based institution began taking disciplinary action against students involved in campus protests in violation of university regulations. On Tuesday, it brought a student who was involved in a demonstration for maintenance workers' rights before a disciplinary panel. In all, seven students are slated to be disciplined, with potential penalties as severe as suspension from classes.
Students and faculty members have castigated the university's decision, which they say infringes on the students' freedom of expression. University administrators say they are enforcing the institution's regulations.
Dr. Dani Filc, head of BGU's Politics and Government Department, who represented the two students at yesterday's hearing, complained that university regulations do not enable demonstrations on short notice. Moreover, he said, bringing a small number of demonstrators before a tribunal constituted discrimination.
Tzoref charged that "the decision's main purpose seems to be to intimidate students and deter them from political activity."
"We have no intention of violating regulations on a daily basis, but the university has sent a clear message that any small deviation from its restrictive, undemocratic regulations will lead to our suspension from classes," he said.
He added that the students intend to continue fighting against the university's restrictions and are considering appealing the tribunal's decision.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel yesterday joined in the criticism of BGU's conduct. "Ben-Gurion University has a dubious reputation for upholding students' freedom of expression," ACRI's Anat Hod said. "We have appealed to the court in the past to oblige the university to allow students to demonstrate on campus, but its conditions and restrictions almost nullify the court's ruling."
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