Ben-Gurion University's Dean Gets Slap on Wrist in Sexual Harassment Case

David Newman was dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences when the incident in question transpired.

Prof. David Newman with Ben Gurion University President Prof. Rivka Carmi, in 2012.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

An outgoing dean at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has been reprimanded by a disciplinary tribunal that heard sexual harassment charges against him by a student. The punishment does not include any financial penalty or suspension.

David Newman was dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences when the incident in question transpired. Given his seniority, the university has appealed the lightness of the sentence. Newman also appealed the ruling.

The university did not divulge which rules Newman had violated and allegedly tried to keep the case under wraps. Unrelated to the incident, Newman left his position to go on sabbatical at the end of the last school year and is currently abroad.

Ben-Gurion women students launched a protest group last week, calling for sterner measures against Newman and for details of the incident to be revealed. The group has demanded that university president Rivka Carmi release the ruling of the tribunal immediately.

Haaretz revealed in May that the university had decided to bring Newman before the tribunal following the filing of a sexual harassment complaint against him by a student. The student was in the final year of her studies in one of the departments in which Newman taught and also worked in the faculty.

According to the complaint, Newman had complimented the student on her looks several times over the years and sexually propositioned her. She rebuffed his advances throughout the period in question and asked him to stop. On a number of occasions, he allegedly touched and embraced her. She said that he offered her to stay with him in one instance.

The student eventually quit her faculty job to avoid professional contact with Newman. At the same time, faculty members raised the issue with the institution’s sexual harassment complaints representative, Prof. Esther Priel, whose inquiry led to the tribunal.

“The university operates according to the law and its rules and regulations, carefully pursuing the truth,” the university said. “The disciplinary code states that the disciplinary tribunal will be held behind closed doors and there is an obligation to protect the privacy of all those involved.”

Newman’s lawyer commented: “After a comprehensive hearing in the disciplinary tribunal, most of the accusations raised in the original complaint and in the press release half-a-year ago were rejected out of hand. The committee ruled that no sexual intent or innuendo was proven.”