Professor Fired for Improper Relations With Three Students

Eyal Ben-Ari was suspended for two years, but Hebrew University appealed.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem yesterday announced it was dismissing a professor and permanently banning him from acting as an adviser to its students, after he was found to have had an improper relationship with three female students.

In February, the university's disciplinary tribunal suspended Prof. Eyal Ben-Ari for two years after it ruled he had acted in a manner "unbecoming a faculty member."

Prof. Eyal Ben-Ari, Hebrew University
Tess Scheflan / Jini

However, the university appealed the ruling, seeking a harsher finding. The tribunal found that that Ben-Ari, a senior lecturer in sociology and anthropology, had taken advantage of his position to have intimate relations with one of the students, and in suggesting to two others that they share a room when they were abroad together.

It also ruled he had impaired the professional credibility of two of the students, as well as the credibility of the university, after he agreed to act as adviser on their doctoral theses despite his close relationship with them.

In two other cases he was found not to have acted improperly.

Ben-Ari's attorneys said that the fact that Ben-Ari was not found to have sexually harassed the students was cause to absolve him of the other charges.

However, the university said that the reason the tribunal's finding did not discuss charges of sexual harassment is that the acts were committed before the law against sexual harassment was passed.

The tribunal said it had decided to impose a more severe penalty on Ben-Ari because "the message might be conveyed that the university is lenient toward faculty who have done wrong and is prepared to turn a blind eye to serious harm to students."

The affair first surfaced three years ago, when an anonymous police complaint was lodged against Ben-Ari by students. Following an investigation, the State Prosecutor's Office decided to close the case for lack of evidence and due to the statute of limitations. Two years ago, internal disciplinary action was launched against Ben-Ari, with some of the complainants this time willing to come forward and testify.

Ben-Ari's attorneys, Reuben Bar-Haim and Mira Beit-On Amsallem, said in a statement: "Prof. Eyal Ben-Ari was exonerated following a prolonged disciplinary proceeding from most of the acts attributed to him, as well as from all sexual harassment offenses attributed to him. The decision of the university's disciplinary tribunal of appeals led to Prof. Ben-Ari paying a very heavy personal and economic price merely because of consensual romantic advances. We retain the right to approach an external court to examine the conduct of the university."