Students at a Tel Aviv college say it threatened to revoke their scholarships when they objected to attending a conference in the West Bank on Thursday.
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A number of students at the Kibbutzim College of Education asked the college’s management not to attend the program’s annual conference, which was held at the Herzog College in the settlement of Alon Shvut.
The students said they felt uncomfortable attending a conference there, but were told that if they failed to attend they would lose their scholarships and living grants.
An email sent to the students by the college stated: “The scholarship is conditional on attendance at the conference and this is an instruction (which isn’t negotiable) from the Education Ministry, which funds the scholarships. There is no flexibility in this matter.”
However, Education Ministry officials said the ministry did not condition the scholarships and grants on taking part in the event.
A student from another college who asked not to attend the conference because it was held in the West Bank received permission not to attend from his college’s program coordinator.
He said he was never told his scholarship would be denied or that he would be harmed in any way by not attending the conference.
The conferences held by the Education Ministry’s Regev program for outstanding students are held in a different college every year. This isn’t the first time the venue has caused problems for students.
Last year, the conference was held at Sakhnin College in northern Israel. Numerous religious female students said they had a halakhic problem going to an event in an Arab college, referring to Jewish religious law.
After a discussion with the students’ college heads, most of them attended the event while a few stayed away. Their scholarships were not denied.
Kibbutzim College is not authorized to deny grants to students who fail to take part in the conference, because the scholarships are granted by the Education Ministry. However, the students are required to sign a document obliging them to take part in conferences as part of their duties to obtain the degree and receive their scholarships.
Despite this, Education Ministry officials insisted this does not mean the scholarship will be denied to anyone who doesn’t show up at the conference.
Kibbutzim College said the program is fully financed by the Education Ministry. “In this framework, the students are required by the ministry to sign a loan form compelling them to fulfill several demands, including attending an annual education conference at one of the participating colleges, regardless of its location.”
Kibbutzim College added that it met the students’ representatives and “stressed the importance of attending the meeting, which advances discourse on controversial issues.”