Wednesday, November 23, 2011
International Call to Close Politics Department at Ben Gurion University
Recommendation: Shut down 'leftist' department
Council for Higher Education committee says Ben Gurion University's
Politics Department politically biased. Professor: Some committee
members extreme rightists
In an unprecedented move, an international committee appointed by the
Council for Higher Education has recommended that the Politics and
Government Department at Ben Gurion University be shut down unless it
addresses some of the problems pointed out by the committee.
According to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, several of the department's
researchers are considered to be radical leftists. Some of them have
even called for an economic, political and cultural boycott on Israel
due to its "apartheid regime."
The committee, which is headed by Professor Thomas Risse from the Free
University in Berlin, expressed its concern that the department's
political inclinations may be resulting in what it referred to as an
imbalance between the opinions of the faculty members and the
"The political science professors must note that the opinions they are
expressing are personal...so that the students will be exposed to
alternative viewpoints," the reported stated.
The committee said it was also concerned that the "strong emphasis on
political activism may undermine the research of politics as a
scientific field." The report noted that there is a consensus among
the students that the courses offered to them are politically biased.
It should be noted that Committee member Galia Golan, a professor at
the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said the demand for a more
"balanced" study program is in direct contrast with the principle of
academic freedom, which she called a pillar of higher education.
The committee mentioned additional administrative problems within the
department, and recommended that Ben Gurion University consider
shutting it down unless necessary changes are implemented.
Professor Dani Filc, who heads the department, said "most of the
report's claims are based on empirical mistakes," adding that the
report was part of a "campaign aimed at hurting the most popular
department in Israel."
Filc said the department would accept the committee's recommendation
to hire more faculty members.
Another senior professor at the department attacked the report, saying
"the committee is external, and some of its members have extreme
right-wing political opinions. It published a false report which is
part of a campaign launched by extremist entities to hurt the
In response to the report, Ben Gurion University President Rivka Carmi
said the department is "well-known throughout the world and claimed it
had been "put under a magnifying glass." She called the report "much
ado about nothing."
Addressing the report's claims, Carmi said some students believe the
department is politically biased, while others say it taught them to
think for themselves.