Five university students, among them the head of the student union, Gil Goldenberg, were arrested Thursday during a protest held opposite the home of Education Minister Yuli Tamir in the Ramat Aviv section of Tel Aviv.
Close to 350 students rallied in support of university professors and called for an end to the strike, which is now 73 days old. The students marched from the campus of Tel Aviv University to the neighborhoods of President Shimon Peres and Tamir in Ramat Aviv.
Near the president's home, students chanted "Peres, give a pardon to higher education," "Stop the murder of higher education," and "Let us return to studying." The rally then proceeded to Tamir's home. Police at the scene informed the demonstrators that they were permitted to congregate on the sidewalk opposite Tamir's home.
Weizmann Institute head withdraws support for injunctionThe president of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Prof. Daniel Zajfman, retracted his support Thursday for a court-ordered injunction to force striking university professors back to work.
Professors holding senior administrative positions in departments, institutes and university committees threatened Wednesday to resign if the Labor Court rules in favor of injunctions that would force the striking lecturers back to work.
On Wednesday, the Committee of University Heads asked the Labor Court to discuss their request for injunctions against the lecturers. A request was filed with the court two weeks ago and was put on hold during the negotiations that the lecturers, universities and the Treasury held under the auspices of the Labor Court. These talks broke down on Tuesday.
Zajfman is the second university president to withdraw his name from the request. Tel Aviv University President Professor Zvi Galil was the first to remove his signature, saying that issuing an injunction against the professors would be "unfair."
A Weizmann Institute spokesperson said that Zajfman added his name in support of the first section of the petition to the Labor Court, which would obligate the professors and the Treasury to negotiate under the auspices of the court. Zajfman withdrew his support for the second part of the petition, which requests an injunction, since all senior academic staff at Weizmann are not bound by similar instruction requirements as university professors in other academic institutions.
Professor Moshe Kaveh, who serves as chairman of the Committee of University Heads, appealed to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to intervene immediately in the dispute.
"I am convinced that your immediate involvement can bring about the solution that will enable us to reach a financial agreement with the professors and to ensure that close to 120,000 students return to their studies," Kaveh said.
If the request is approved, the university heads intend to put them into effect that same day. The injunctions will be valid for two weeks.
Kaveh said that "the committee is of the opinion that the conflict should be resolved through authorized arbitration. However, if this will not become possible, there will be no other option but to resort to two-week injunctions, in order to resume teaching while intensive negotiations take place toward an agreement." In response, faculty unions described the request for injunctions as "crossing a red line."
Preparations are underway on university campuses for general assemblies to decide what form of protest should be adopted against the injunctions.
Prof. Avner De-Shalit, head of the Political Science Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that if it is decided during the assembly to call on heads of departments to resign, he and many of his colleagues would do so.
"The entire system of relations in the university is built on voluntarism and mutual respect. The step taken toward the injunctions is a brutal break with such a system," he said.
Prof. Malka Schaps, head of the Mathematics Department at Bar Ilan University, said that last week she decided to call on all the faculty holding senior positions "to resign their posts and not cooperate with the heads of the university, in protest to the harm done to the foundation of academia."
In an e-mail to the faculty in her department, Schaps said she would resign if the injunctions are issued.
Solidarity was expressed by department and committee heads at Haifa and Tel Aviv universities, as well as at the Technion.
Prof. Lev Grinberg, head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben-Gurion University, said that different methods of protest are being considered in an effort not to harm students or the ability of the university to bounce back from the crisis.
One of the options being considered is for the senior academics serving, voluntarily, on government-sponsored bodies, to suspend their participation.
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