The strike at Israel’s universities and colleges has now finished its third week. With a weakened government and an education minister who would like nothing more than to resolve the strike before the dissolution of the government (looks good on the resume for the next government, right Yuli?), the students are now in the driver’s seat. Most importantly, the students have been consistently drawing sympathetic coverage from the press, which is all to eager to cover yet more instances of unprovoked police brutality and the inability of the government to negotiate with the people.
One of the scarier prospects of the strike has been contemplating the status of the current semester. The student leaders at the helm of the strike assured the students that the semester would not be extended (which for us, means well into July) and that the instructors would work with the students to make up lost lectures and assignments. The worst case scenario was that the university administrations would cancel the semester, a threat–with its attendant repercussions–that the student leaders assured us would not materialize.
As hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens gathered yesterday in Rabin Square, the an e-mail was sent out to university students around the country by the Committee of University Heads in Israel.
Here is a summary of what is stated in the e-mail:
Classes will resume on Sunday, May 6, regardless of how many students attend.
The semester will be extended by two weeks.
Students who do not return to classes beginning Sunday will not receive the same consideration for making up material and completing assignments.
The threat looming over the entire notice is that if students do not return to classes beginning Sunday, it will cost them the semester, whatever that entails. While it’s not spelled out in this letter, it was widely reported in the press that students who would not return to classes would lose this semester’s credits.
The letter was greeted with an uproar from the public, who found it outrageous that the university presidents/heads–who receive their 700,000 NIS (an extraordinary salary in Israel) from the university budget–had the audacity to threaten the student strike. The “talkbacks” for newspaper articles reporting on this development were filled with invective regarding the cushy lifestyles of the university heads when students have to juggle three minimum-wage jobs to just make ends meet. Naturally, the students leading the strike immediately condemned the threat and called on students to take the strike up a notch.
The cherry on top for students is that this morning, the committee of university instructors (professors, etc.) announced that they will not fold to the idle threat of the university heads and turn their backs on striking students. The professors, who also stand to benefit from a successful strike, which would return over one billion NIS to university coffers, declared that they would not fail students who continued striking.
I don’t have class Sundays, but I’m curious as to what will be. I suspect that students will chain the university gates and block access to the campuses. Stay tuned.