Israeli Lecturers Dodge a Bullet (For Now)

I have been writing about the lecturers’ strike in Israel over the course of the past few weeks. The strike, now in its 84th day, is approaching a critical point. On January 14th, an Israeli judge, according to an article in the Jerusalem Post refused to issue a back-to-work order for the striking lecturers. The court was petitioned to issue the order by Bar-Ilan University President Professor Moshe Kaveh, head of the Council of University Presidents (CUP). After the petition was denied, Kaveh called for university heads to meet on January 14th to decide whether or not to cancel the remainder of the Fall 2008 semester.

On January 21st, the court will reconsider CUP’s petition and may, indeed, order the striking senior lecturers to go back to the classroom. Head of the Senior Lecturers Union, Professor Zvi Hacohen, head of the Senior Lecturers Union, told reporters after closing arguments were completed that if the court ordered them back to work, “as law abiding citizens, we would obey.” Some professors might choose to resign, of course, rather than be ordered back to the classroom.

About 40 percent of the college faculty teaching at Israel’s universities are, so-called, “junior faculty,” or temporary profs. They have been teaching since the first day of the strike called by the Senior Lecturers Union, which represents only full-time faculty.

I had two thoughts:

  • How can the senior lecturers possibly keep from completely alienating the Israeli public?
  • Should the junior lecturers benefit from the strike? Should they stop crossing the picket lines?

This is from a January 14, 2008 editorial in Haaretz:

…[S]erious problems are developing with respect to higher education and its future. Among these are the reduction in positions at the universities, the declining focus on humanities and research, the closure of departments that are not considered profitable, and failed management that has brought about a worrisome erosion in the level of the institutions in question. One of the most disquieting problems of all involves the employment of “external” staff – junior-level lecturers to whom the universities do not have positions to offer, who work for low pay and under conditions that do not allow them to develop professionally.

Obviously, by choosing to strike long-term over their own salary rates, the senior lecturers have burned through quite a bit of their credibility and public support. I am not saying faculty shouldn’t be well compensated. I am saying that, like Wall Street, the Average Joe who pays taxes, owns a house, and sends his kids to university, can bear Bears and Bulls, but not Pigs. One thing is certain, long-term strikes that are focused primarily on salary issues for people who already earn above average wages, is very very risky business. So, for that matter, is dodging bullets, and not seeming to notice or care that the “junior faculty” whom your work with are terribly underpaid and have no job security.

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