(Dis)honoring the Past: Hebrew University Faces Pressure to Remove Sex Harassers’ Portraits

Head of Israel Women’s Network calls to take down pictures of two dismissed directors of university’s Truman Institute

Students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, March 31, 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

The administration of Hebrew University has ignored repeated calls in recent months to take down from its walls portraits of professors who were dismissed because of sexual offenses against students.

Portraits of the heads of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace over the generations are on display at the institute, including those of Prof. Eyal Ben-Ari and Prof. Mario Schneider. They were dismissed after being found to have committed sexual offenses against students, including abusing their authority to have intimate relations with students.

University President Menahem Ben-Sasson and the university’s rector, Prof. Asher Cohen, have received requests over the past few months to intervene and express their opinion on the matter, but have not responded.

In one request to Ben-Sasson and Cohen, the head of the Israel Women’s Network, Michal Gera Margaliot, asked in a letter that the pictures of the two professors be removed, or at least that text be prominently displayed near their picture that mentions the seriousness of their offenses.

“Schneider and Ben-Ari were dismissed after they took advantage of their position, and the decision to grant them the honor of having their portraits on display spits in the face of the victims and the men and women who come to the institute and the university,” she wrote. Leaving the portraits in place conveys a message that such offenses “are not serious enough, so that those who committed them are still worthy of honors by the institute and the university,” Margaliot added. She hasn’t received a reply.

Schneider was dismissed from Hebrew University in 2015 after a student, Efrat Yaakov, filed a complaint that he had committed indecent acts. The university subsequently signed an agreement with Schneider that he would not return to teach or advise students, and to compensate Yaakov in the amount of 95,000 shekels ($26,660).

In 2011, a university disciplinary tribunal determined that Ben-Ari was guilty of conduct unbecoming a faculty member toward three female students he was advising. Ben-Ari was suspended for two years and eventually dismissed and barred from again serving as a student adviser.

The university responded: “The matter is being dealt with. The heads of the institute are abroad in the framework of their work; the issue will come up for discussion at the beginning of the academic year.”