Hebrew U. gender c'tee resigns to protest discrimination
Hebrew University's Committee on Gender Issues resigned Wednesday to protest the university's discrimination against women.
"Every year, half of the Ph.D. graduates are women. It is unthinkable that 55 of the recent senior faculty appointments have been men, and only 11 women," said committee chair Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish thought. "Eleven percent of the professors are women, and 89 percent are men," she said.
Before the resignation, the committee's nine professors held a stormy meeting under the shadow of the sexual harassment affair involving Professor Eyal Ben-Ari.
Ben-Ari, a senior lecturer accused of sexual harassment by three former students, was arrested last week for allegedly forcing students and doctoral candidates to have sex in exchange for advancement and scholarships. Police have the names of seven students who were allegedly victimized by Ben-Ari.
Elior said she did not resign because of the Ben-Ari affair, but because the university has refused all the committee's demands.
"I resigned solely because we feel there is no way to change the university's discriminatory policy," she said.
Asked about the Ben-Ari affair, Elior said, "I suggest the president begin clearly defining what is permissible and what is forbidden between lecturers and students ... Culture is not only creating, but also setting boundaries."
The Committee on Gender Issues was set up four years ago, in the wake of complaints about the university's discriminatory policy toward female students and researchers. Unlike the previous committee, this committee decided that sexual harassment was a matter for the university ombudsman, and instead focused on recommending scholarships be given to outstanding female scientists, encouraging woman doctoral lecturers to take post-doctorate courses and improving conditions for mothers in academia.
"We didn't succeed even in seemingly small issues, like creating a foundation to finance maternity leave for laboratory assistants who were not directly employed by the university," Elior said.
"In all my lectures, I note that universities began as monasteries, and were closed to women and Jews," she said.
"We've come a long way since women weren't allowed to walk on the grass at Oxford and since 1969, when the first woman was accepted to Princeton. But to this day, we haven't achieved the necessary turning point. The university is still a masculine institute par excellence, and part of the gender discrimination is inadvertent," she said.
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