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Senior university lecturers hope to get the presidents of their institutions to resign, saying the decision to go to the National Labor Court has generated a crisis of confidence. The court today will convene its first hearing on the presidents' request to end the strike.

"As those who have headed a university in Israel for many years and see it as our home, we ask the committee of university heads to withdraw immediately from these destructive ideas," wrote nine former university rectors in a letter condemning the university presidents' move.

The university presidents asked the court last week to order the lecturers' representatives and the treasury to renew negotiations under court supervision. They also asked the court to issue back-to-work orders effective January 13, saying this was the latest date students could resume studies for this semester.

Faculty members at most of the country's universities have passed resolutions condemning the presidents of their institutions and calling on them to resign. The process of ousting the president of the Technion technology institute, Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig, is underway.

The lecturers who initiated the process would not say how many signatures they had collected, but other lecturers said they had either collected or were near collecting the number of signatures needed for the university senate to recommend that the board of governors dismiss the president. Apeloig did not respond to the reports.

At other universities, reforms passed in recent years have rendered the faculty incapable of dismissing the university president. This has left senior lecturers pushing for statements demonstrating their lack of confidence, in an effort to compel their president to resign.

Some 210 senior lecturers at Ben-Gurion University, comprising about a quarter of the faculty, signed a statement calling for the university's president, Prof. Rivka Carmi, to resign. Lecturers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem collected more than twice the number of signatures needed to convene a special meeting due to take place tomorrow, where some lecturers are planning to propose statements calling for the president's dismissal.

However, the boards of governors of all the universities said yesterday they support the presidents and their efforts to mediate between the faculty and the Finance Ministry.

If the university presidents do succeed in forcing the lecturers to go back to class, several said they would still continue some form of protest.

"As soon as there are back-to-work orders, there will be a popular revolt," said Prof. Udi Makov, chairman of the University Faculty Association at Haifa University. "The court can return us to the classroom, but it doesn't guarantee that the academic year will end properly. The university presidents will run universities that are paralyzed from an administrative perspective, because the lecturers won't cooperate with academic administration."

Several department heads said they plan to quit their posts if the presidents win back-to-work orders, while lecturers from several universities said that if forced back to the classroom, they would not teach the material on the syllabus or would not carry out the administrative tasks of a lecturer.

A Haifa University history lecturer, Dr. Ori Amitai, said that if he was forced into class by a court order, he would teach the highly contested educational reforms proposed by the Shochat committee.