Winter 2001-02

New Deans Greeted with a Strike

In deference to world events, the planned strike by senior academic staff at all Israeli universities that had been scheduled for the opening day of the academic year was postponed.  Two weeks later, it was on; and a week later frustrated students waged three days of a preventive strike in retaliation.  

At the beginning of the second week of the strike, University President Prof. Yehuda Hayuth, whose hands are essentially tied, since the academicians are actually striking against the Ministry of Finance, which approves their salary agreements, had to calm down a group of some forty student activists.  Making their grievances and demands known through loudspeakers, they had swarmed up to his office on the 27th floor of the Eshkol Tower. It was a replay of a scene he had to face seven years, also brought on by a country-wide faculty strike.

“We found a solution then, and we will find one now,” he told the students.  Then was a 77-day strike.  Like then, he had come out of his office to speak with the students in the hallway.  He did not want anyone to be hurt by the strike, especially the students, he said to them.

“We will all be here after the strike,” he said.  “We have to think about what will be afterwards.  We are all disturbed by it [the strike], and any decision on it will be taken by all the universities.”

He tried to assure a persistent Sharli Bagim, a third-year Law student, who wanted to know what would happen when the strike ends and whether he and others would graduate on time.

The President replied, “Every effort is being made to see that the students will not pay the price.  The university is a delicate system, and we don’t want to ruin it.”

Still disgruntled, the group left, though somewhat less noisily than it had arrived. The next day, students continued to bar the two main entrances to the campus with burning tires—a favorite action by striking Israeli workers—and added another notch to their expression of anger by closing off most entrances to buildings. 
The students’ actions, however, mostly caused inconvenience for several hours rather than prevent employees from gaining entrance either to the campus or to its buildings.  The object of their ire was that the strikers were coming in to continue their research and do their office work while the students had to pay that month’s tuition bill, but not receive instruction (except from junior faculty, who were not on strike).

The faculty strike was one of several concurrent walkouts by government or quasi-government employees.  Since the government funds more than half of every university’s budget and, through the Council of Higher Education, vets their academic programs, university lecturers are effectively in the latter category. In all, their strike lasted 25 days.
The new deans could now begin their real work.

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