Universities stage mini-strike against budget cuts

Universities stage mini-strike against budget cuts

Students and faculty call two-hour school stoppage to protest looming financial crisis in Israel’s higher education

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

Hebrew University student union head Yael Sinai speaking at the protest on Tuesday. (Screenshot via Youtube)
Hebrew University student union head Yael Sinai speaking at the protest on Tuesday. (Screenshot via Youtube)

Israel’s universities protested planned budget cuts on Tuesday with a symbolic strike by students and faculty.

Under the slogan “Education = Growth,” the universities highlighted a list of possible results of a likely budget cut and used the two-hour duration of the strike to explain the dangers and problems of the looming situation to students, professors and other staff.

At Tel Aviv University Ronit Tirosh — a former Kadima legislator who was also the director of the Education Ministry — warned that the looming budget cuts could send the system into a downward spiral that would be hard to recover from.

In addition to charging students more money for their studies, budget cuts would force the universities to turn down more job applicants than before, inevitably hurting the quality of teaching at the various institutions, the TAU student body said. In effect, it explained to the thousands of students gathered during the strike, “we’d be paying more for less.”

“Higher education isn’t the problem — it’s the solution,” Hebrew University President Professor Menachem Ben-Sasson said in Jerusalem. “There is no future for the state if it doesn’t invest in research and advanced education,” he said, calling education “the best investment” in the country’s future.

A video titled “Education = Growth” underscoring higher education’s contribution to Israel’s economy and society was uploaded to YouTube by Israel’s National Student Union. It detailed the problems facing the country’s higher education system, including overcrowding and funding shortfalls as the system has been expanded.

Hebrew U’s student body leader Yael Sinai said the struggle was just beginning. “We hope with all our hearts that we can bring good news,” she told her peers. If not, she continued, “we’ll take responsibility for our future and head to the streets.”

read more: