bezalel - Emil Salman - March 7 2011
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Photo by Emil Salman
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The Council for Higher Education has told the Bezalel Academy that it will not approve Hanoch Marmari as the arts school's next president because the former Haaretz editor in chief is not a professor.

Marmari had been set to replace Prof. Arnon Zuckerman, who has served as Bezalel president since 2003.

"It has been brought to our attention that Bezalel is considering appointing as its next president a candidate who does not meet our criteria," the council said in a letter late last week to the chairman of Bezalel's governing board, Herzl Habas, and the chairman of its management board, Zvi Barak.

"We will not allow the appointment of a president who is not a professor, as specified in the council's decision demanding that an institution be headed only by a professor, preferably a full professor fully and solely employed by the institution. We expect to receive your clarifications as soon as possible, and not later than April 15."

A Bezalel spokesman said Barak, also chairman of the search committee, would be abroad until Tuesday, so an official response was not immediately available.

Marmari admitted that he never completed his college degree. He was a student at Bezalel and the Hebrew University, and headed Bezalel's Department of Visual Communication from 2005 to 2008.

Asked about the controversy, Marmari said: "It's not a question for me to answer, but for the chairman of the board, who's an expert on the procedures."

When Marmari headed the Department of Visual Communication, students and several colleagues said he was aloof and often arrogant. Others said the fact he wasn't a designer was a huge shortcoming.

A year before he resigned from Bezalel, students held protests and hung posters criticizing the way he ran the department. After leaving Bezalel, Marmari, a recipient of the Sokolow Prize for Journalism in 2004, served for a short time as editor in chief of the Kinneret Zmora-Bitan publishing house.

After the search committee chose Maramari, Barak released a statement saying that "this is the first time in Bezalel's 105-year history that a former student, who also served as a department head, has been chosen president of the academy.

Marmari has vast administrative experience in various areas, and we believe he is most suited for the post."