T.A. University to Probe Claim Right-wing Students Silenced

Knesset Education Committee chair: Complaints are proof academia lacks freedom of expression.

Tel Aviv University rector Dan Levitan said he would investigate whether right-wing students refrain from expressing their political views in class, fearing that lecturers perceived as left-wing may lower their grades.

"A considerable number of students complain bitterly that they are deeply offended by the presentation of materials that oppose their views, but are afraid of speaking out lest it harm their grades," the head of TAU's Curriculum and Instruction department Prof. Nira Hativa wrote in a memorandum last month.

The memo sparked controversy among professors, some of whom said her comments were "generalizations" that right-wingers could use to justify attacks on the university.

Knesset Education Committee chairman MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) said the students' complaints are proof academia lacks academic freedom and freedom of expression.

Hativa wrote in the memo that the students who are afraid of speaking out "sit through class, frustrated and angry."

Replying to a question from Haaretz, Hativa said her statement was "based on feelings, intuitions and personal impressions, and may very well be wrong."

Yesterday, TAU issued a statement announcing that Levitan will "thoroughly examine" the allegations, as soon as Hativa returns to Israel in a week.

The university has received no complaints on this matter so far, the statement said.

"We've been dealt a stupid blow with no justification," a senior TAU professor said yesterday.

He said Hativa's comments were "not based on a statistical analysis of an explicit question put to all the students, right- and left-wing. They were based on complaints written by those who want to complain. It's a statistical bias, and it's impossible to know how representative it is."

Another lecturer said, "The definition of left-wing is very broad. Until specific statements or situations are examined, these are nothing but generalizations that right-wing people would gladly use to attack academia."

Orlev said, "If the university heads try to ignore the issue, we will probably discuss it in the Education Committee, in the hope that there will be enough courageous students to express their views."

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