BGUs poli sci department will not be shut

Israel’s  Council for Higher Education announced on Feb. 12 that it had decided against shutting down the political science department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Two years ago, a committee commissioned by the council asserted that the department failed to expose students to all points of view, had too few faculty members, and offered low-quality research and teaching. The committee recommended that the department be shut down. Pundits and much of the Israeli media claimed the department was being punished for its perceived leftist slant — over the years, some of the department’s staffers have been labeled radical leftists and accused of calling for an international cultural, academic and political boycott of Israel.

According to the council, after the subcommittee’s report was published, the department failed to broaden its research approaches to reflect a more pluralistic spectrum, and the council ordered the department not to admit new students for the 2013-2014 school year, which would effectively shut it down.

The decision stirred a heated public debate, and the university’s president, professor Rivka Carmi, sent a letter to the council calling its decision unreasonable and unbalanced. Last September, 300 academics from throughout Israel sent a petition to the council blasting the move to shut the department, which it called “unprecedented.”

This week the council decided to overturn the decision and recommend that new students be admitted to the program this fall, provided that the university hire an additional two or three faculty members.

In a Feb. 13 statement, Carmi noted that BGU is satisfied with the agreement that was worked out, which she said, “strengthens the university and benefits both students and faculty.” — & j. staff