Feras Hammami, KTH, Royal Institute of technology, Stockholm, Sweden
“Israeli academic freedom is under severe attack”. This was written in a petition signed by staff members of several Israeli universities protesting against a proposal made by the Subcommittee for Quality Assessment of the Israeli Council for Higher Education (CHE) to bar the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University (BGU) from admitting students for the 2013-14 academic year. This proposal follows a report prepared by an international committee appointed by the CHE to scrutinize political science departments in Israel. This is seen by some as a “conclusive step toward closing the Department, which is known in Israel for the political activism of some of its professors, some of whom are vocal and sharp critics of the Israeli regime” (Adi Ophir)
While this petition was signed in September 2012, freedom of expression in Israeli universities has been policed by the Zionist ideology of the State of Israel since its establishment in 1948. The apartheid and racist nature of this ideology has been institutionalized in the different public agencies of Israel and has guided the occupation practices in the Palestinian Territories, challenging people’s identity and regulating their everyday life activities. As a Palestinian who has lived the first 24 years of his life under occupation, writing about academic freedom evokes meanings beyond its common definition, “the freedom of students and faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy,” and uncovers the apartheid nature of the State of Israel.
I remember the stories told by students who came from outside Nablus city, West Bank, to study at An-Najah University. During my Bachelor program in architectural engineering, I used to meet with some classmates in Al-Hamra Square after the submission of a design studio project. It was October 2000 when we sat in the square talking about our experiences from the previous night as we finished AutoCAD drawings for the course, Architectural Studio IV. We talked about our classmate Ahmad, from Gaza city, who didn’t submit his drawings. Just before we left the square Ahmad showed up with a furious face. We asked him about his drawings but he replied by asking whether any of us could provide him with accommodation for a few nights. He wanted to hide from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who had gathered all students whose permanent address was in the Gaza Strip. After security screening, the students were either forced to return to Gaza or kept in jails. Upon their arrival, the students searched all possible means to return to their universities in the West Bank, or join the Islamic University in Gaza. Some gave up education and worked in their family businesses.
A report released last week by UC Berkeley students, reveal the staggering human costs of University of California’s interest rate swaps and debt-driven profit strategies. Entitled Swapping our Future: How Students and Taxpayers are Funding Risky UC Borrowing and Wall Street Profits, the report shows that UC management has doubled university debt from $6.9 billion to $14.3 billion over the span of four years. Funds from this immense borrowing from Wall Street has been directed to for-profit activities that fall outside of UC’s core mission, leaving students to bear the costs—tuition has increased 300% since 2002 while service cuts have been left unmitigated. Only a day after its release, the report has already ruffled some feathers among university officials.
To read the full report, please visit here.