Left-leaning Israeli University Department Again Threatened With Closure

Council of Higher Education recommends shutting down Ben-Gurion University's politics and government department.

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

A subcommittee of the Council for Higher Education has recommended
shutting down Ben-Gurion University's politics and government department, in defiance of a professional opinion submitted by an international assessment panel.

The Subcommittee for Ensuring Quality, which submitted its recommendation last week, said that students shouldn't be allowed to enroll in the department next September, and the education council should decide whether to reopen enrollment the following year based on the report of a monitoring committee to be established for this purpose. This proposal still requires approval by the full council.

But internal correspondence among the subcommittee members, which has been obtained by Haaretz, reveals that they knew this proposal contradicted the recommendations of the international assessment panel on which it was supposed to be based.

The subcommittee initially proposed closing the department, including hiring more faculty and expanding course offerings in core fields. To comply with these suggestions, the university hired three new faculty members and altered its curriculum. The assessors were then asked to evaluate its efforts.

Their conclusions, which Haaretz has obtained in Hebrew translation, began by congratulating the department for hiring three new faculty members in the fields of comparative politics, quantitative methods and political theory, as well as its plans to hire a fourth new faculty member in the coming year.

However, the document continued, to enable these young researchers to fill the department's gaps properly, the department must ensure that they are given the time, resources and guidance needed to publish papers in peer-reviewed journals and get books published by university presses, as well as to carry out the department's commitment to build a pluralistic curriculum.

In addition, it said, the department should increase the diversity of future faculty hires, with regard to both their working methods and their theoretical orientation.

Nothing in this document, which was supposed to be the basis for the subcommittee's decision, recommends closing the department. But that is what the panel decided to do.

Ben-Gurion University said the changes it has made fulfilled the assessors' demands and even earned their praise.

Ben-Gurion University campusCredit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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