Tel Aviv University president Zvi Galil submitted his resignation yesterday after only two years in the post. Galil, whose academic field of expertise is computer sciences, stated in his letter of resignation that he had decided to resign in order to devote his time to his academic work, which was not possible in concert with his administrative responsibilities as president.
Senior university sources said Galil was forced to resign following friction which came to a head this week with TAU's executive council. The council issued a statement, however, expressing surprise at Galil's decision and stating that there was no attempt to make him step down. Galil declined to respond to reports of efforts to dismiss him.
Sources have said that some of the executive council members had recently expressed their lack of confidence in Galil's fundraising capabilities. In a statement yesterday, Galil acknowledged that "the funds which we are raising are small compared to the entire university budget."
He added, however, "I made a major effort to solicit contributions for the operating budget of the university."
The TAU executive council convened on Monday in a session which one high-level source called "difficult."
Galil is one of the world's leading experts in computer sciences and has been a member of the computer science faculty of Columbia University in New York since 1982. He served as dean of Columbia's School of Engineering and Applied Science from 1995 to 2007, when he returned to Israel to take up the TAU presidency. A source at Tel Aviv University said the transition from research on an international level to dealing on a daily basis with administrative and budgetary matters was a burden for Galil.
In resigning, Galil called on the government to recognize the primary importance of human capital, and expressed the hope that more would be done to bring Israeli researchers working abroad back to academic institutions in Israel. His departure comes about four months after a shake-up in the leadership of the university's executive council, which oversees the activities of the president. Dov Lautman was replaced as chair of the council by businesswoman Leora Meridor.
Last month, following Meridor's appointment, the university's board of governors changed the institution's constitution and reduced the authority of academic staff in the university administration in favor of "representatives of the public," primarily business people.
The new constitution limits representation of the board of governors by academics to 20 percent. The constitution now also provides for a majority of pubic representatives on the executive council and on the search committee for a new president.
The new provisions reduce the number of votes needed to cut short the term of the university president.
The TAU presidential search committee is expected to convene soon.
Executive council chairwoman Meridor issued a statement noting Galil's contribution to maintaining the academic standing of Tel Aviv University at a time of a budgetary crisis which required the university to substantially cut the scope of its activity.
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