No Confidence in Education Minister Bennett: Six Members of Council of Higher Education Resign

(Sunday, February 21st, 2016 09:30 PM)

benIn a clear showing of no-confidence for Education Minister Naftali Bennett, six members of Israel’s Council of Higher Education have submitted their resignations. The move is prompted by Bennett’s decision to remove the head of the council from his post, Professor Hagit Messer-Yoron, appointing Dr. Rivka Vadmani-Shauman in her place. The six demand disbanding the council and appointing a new one in its place, without political interference.

The decision by Bennett was met with an outcry as Vadmani-Shauman is viewed as an unknown and a junior academic as compared to Messer-Yoron, who has been serving in the post for three years.

Following Bennett’s decision a number of weeks ago, council members stated his move represents unwanted blatant political interference into the nation’s higher education, explaining Bennett’s candidate is an unknown lecturer and has never taught or undertaken significant research in any of Israel’s major universities and has not even been credited as an associate professor. The council members warn the appointment delivers a severe blow to the level of Israel’s higher education.

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It is pointed out the law requires the council to have a minimum of 19 members so the resignations of the six compel action on Bennett’s part.

Bennett’s Office released the following statement. ”We thank those council members who have resigned for their service and gift to higher education. The council will continue to operate and new persons will be appointed from the senior candidates in the nation’s universities to fill the voids created”.

Following is the biography appearing on the Tel Aviv University website for Prof. Messer-Yaron:

HAGIT MESSER-YARON received the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Tel Aviv University (TAU), ISRAEL, and after a post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University, she joined the faculty of Engineering at Tel Aviv University in 1986, where she is a Professor of Electrical Engineering.

On 2000 – 2003 she has served as the Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Science, ISRAEL. After returning to TAU she was the head of the Porter school of environmental studies (2004-6), and the Vice President for Research and Development 2006-8. She has served as the President of the Open University in Israel (2008-2013). Since October 2013 she is the Vice-Chair of the Council of Higher Education, Israel.

Hagit Messer is an active researcher in the field of Statistical Signal Processing. She is also interested in various aspects of higher-education and science policy, including: ethics, science-society interplay, and commercialization of academic research. Prof. Messer-Yaron is committed to the advancement of women in science and technology.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

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