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The Council for Higher Education has given Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Politics and Government three weeks to rectify perceived deficiencies before it decides whether to shut down the department, which the right-wing organization Im Tirzu has criticized for its “anti-Zionist tilt.”
The CHE’s Quality Assessment Subcommittee on political science and international relations on Tuesday deferred its decision on the department’s future. The subcommittee told the university department to submit a written commitment to correct purported deficiencies noted by an international evaluation committee that it said had not yet been addressed, before it reconvenes to consider the department’s future.
In September, the subcommittee recommended effectively shutting the department down, but after the university appealed the recommendation, the matter returned before the panel on Tuesday.
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.
More than a year ago the CHE set up an international committee headed by Prof. Thomas Risse of the Free University of Berlin to evaluate the departments of politics and government at eight Israeli universities. The committee recommended a series of changes at BGU’s Department of Politics and Government, including enlarging its faculty and broadening the range of study in the discipline’s core subjects. As a result, the department added three staff members and revised academic programs.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Be’er Sheva-based university said it presented data at the hearing that demonstrated that there was no real criticism of the department, and that its curriculum is very diverse and accepted by highly-regarded experts in Israel and abroad. “The university,” the statement continued, “will not accept any decision that leaves the threat of closure hanging over the department. However, the university will continue to cooperate with the CHE to ensure the department maintains a high academic level.”
In September, the CHE subcommittee went further than Risse’s group and recommended that registration of students in the department as of the 2013-2014 academic year be halted, effectively leaving it without a future. If ultimately the subcommittee stands by its recommendation to close the department, the move would require ratification by the CHE plenum.