Oversight body pans Bar-Ilan U. for penalizing bare-headed student

Oversight body pans Bar-Ilan U. for penalizing bare-headed student

Universities and academic institutes are meant for ‘all of society’ and should avoid punishment over religious matters

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

An illustrative photo of the Bar-Ilan University campus. (CC-BY/Avishai Teicher/Wikimedia Commons)
An illustrative photo of the Bar-Ilan University campus. (CC-BY/Avishai Teicher/Wikimedia Commons)

Punitive measures against students who refuse to wear a kippa are problematic, the Israel Council for Higher Education said Sunday, in its first official reference to Bar-Ilan University’s policy of compelling male students to wear the religious headgear while in Jewish studies classes.

Institutes for higher education need to be “open to all of society,” an initial draft of the ICHE obtained by Maariv said. Penalizing a student because of reasons related to religion during an academic lecture was “problematic and should be avoided,” a source told the Hebrew website.

A lecturer at Bar-Ilan University last week kicked a male student out of his class after the student refused to wear a kippa, and the officially Jewish-Orthodox institution backed the lecturer’s decision, saying the ritual head-covering was part of the institution’s dress code for mandatory Jewish studies classes — even if it hasn’t always been enforced.

Some students and other academic figures — both from Bar-Ilan and other institutions — have considered asking the ICHE to force the university to change the regulations, which have been in place for decades.

“I support the university and I’m not anti-religious,” Niv — the student removed from class, whose last name has not been released — told Maariv. The problem should be fixed within the framework of the university, he said, but if that failed he would try other means. For the sake of future students, “the illogical regulation must be changed,” he said.

Dr. Haim Talbi, who teaches in the Talmud Department, told his male students that if they wanted to attend his class, they had to wear a kippa. When Niv refused, he was sent to the department’s administrative section, where he was told that the agreement signed by all students upon admission included a clause mandating a “head covering during mandatory Jewish studies courses.”

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