This week, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev started bringing students who were involved in on-campus demonstrations before a disciplinary tribunal. Students involved in demonstrations for the university's cleaning workers and the Gaza-bound flotilla have already been brought before a tribunal, and more such hearings are expected.
The university says these demonstrations were not approved and their organizers did not act according to regulations. The students say obtaining the university's approval is a long procedure and the demonstrations were organized in response to current events.
The university only allowed a small area for the demonstration for the cleaning workers, so the event's organizer called on his colleagues to send protest letters to the university president. For this he was charged with "violating the approval conditions for holding a demonstration."
Israeli students are an indifferent community. While throughout the world students spearhead public campaigns, in Israel their struggle has narrowed to tuition levels. University administrators would be expected to be concerned about this situation. An indifferent, uninvolved student does not bode well either for society or the institution where he studies. Students who are focused on grades who don't venture out of their ivory tower will contribute very little to society in the future as well.
And lo, when students shake off their indifference and want to demonstrate against what they see as injustice, the university administration rises against them and puts them on trial.
It appears that Ben-Gurion University's administration is clutching at bureaucratic trifles to muzzle students. The right to demonstrate is an important component of the freedom of expression, which the High Court of Justice has determined is "a supreme right."
Instead of encouraging students to demonstrate, the university is intimidating them to deter them from organizing further demonstrations. This conveys a negative message. The university's administrators would do well to revoke the tribunals immediately, as well as the penalties handed down to those who have already been tried.
Ben-Gurion University should be proud of its students for their desire to be involved in society and events in the country. It shouldn't threaten them and punish them on various outlandish administrative pretexts.
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