Students at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya have launched a protest against their own student union over its organization of an annual trip to Eilat, after the long lines for a hotel room led to scalping of places in line for as much as NIS 1,000.
Within less than two days, more than 1,000 students - almost 20 percent of the 5,700-strong student body - have joined a protest group on Facebook over the issue. Some of the students also accuse the union and its economic corporation of overcharging for the trip, and many are angry that people who aren't IDC students were also allowed to participate.
The outcry began on Monday, when the union handed out numbers for the line to get a hotel room.
"The union announced that distribution of the numbers would begin at 9 A.M. and sale of the rooms would start at 10," related Oren Kochavi, the student who launched the Facebook protest. "As an experienced third-year student, I arrived at 6:30 A.M., because I knew there would a line. Some people got there at 5:30. By 7:30, there were already 300 to 400 people waiting."
Lior, another student, wrote on Facebook that he arrived at 6:30 A.M. and left at 2 P.M., in part because the union had only two people working, and both their computers had communications problems. In the mad rush, he said, "a women student was almost trampled on and places in line were scalped for hundreds of shekels."
The scalping occurred because each student was allowed to take two consecutive numbers even if he needed only one, enabling him to sell the second without endangering his own place in line. Students said the scalping prices ranged from NIS 300 to NIS 1,000, depending on the number: Lower numbers meant a better chance at a good room.
Yonatan, another student, said that some of those waiting in line acted like "wild beasts." He said he arrived at 8:30 A.M. - half an hour early - and wound up with a number that "in the best case" would let him buy a room only three days later. "Someone needs to be held to account for what happened there," he wrote.
But some students said the real culprits were their fellow students. "You have no shame," a student named Tal wrote on the Facebook page. "It's the students themselves who created this disgrace!! People were scalping tickets for the line for NIS 400-600!!!"
Rivki, another student and former student union official, had a similar take. "You stand in the cafeteria and scalp tickets for the line for an average of NIS 800 per ticket ... and then you have the nerve to come and say the union and the corporation are stealing your money?" she wrote.
A law student from Tel Aviv University attacked the protest from a different angle, saying the uproar over "'our right as students to travel to Eilat'" was "simply repulsive."
The protesters also complained that the price of the trip keeps rising from year to year, despite contributions from corporate sponsors like Pelephone, Bank Leumi and Carlsberg. This year's hotel prices, not including the flight, range from NIS 890 to NIS 1,260; the protesters claimed this is more than students at other universities pay and accused the union of poor negotiating.
Student Union chairman Yair Yitzhar Bolkhovsky responded that the union's decision not to use guards and metal barriers to control the crowd had clearly been mistake, but that didn't justify the scalping. He said the union would try to locate the scalpers, bar them from the trip and file disciplinary complaints against them.
The prices haven't gone up "by even one shekel" since last year, he added, but are more expensive than at other universities because the trip is three nights rather than two.
Kochavi has called a meeting of his protesters for Thursday, and Bolkhovsky is expected to attend.
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