Alarming Developments In Tel Aviv University

Update (July 24): A detailed new article in Hebrew and English.

Dr. Leora Meridor, who replaced  Dov Lautman in March (just four months ago)  as chair of TAU’s executive council is quoted saying: ” I’d give him (Zvi Galil) a list of things that had to be done, and nothing would happen.” and “In such a situation, you can’t just keep on doing what was done before, only to a lesser extent. You have to make decisions: what should be severed with one sharp blow, and what should be strengthened. This is the ABC of management.”

Again, I should repeat that even direct quotes taken from a newspaper are not always accurate. If accurate,  a management style of executive counsil chairperson who gives the president of the university  a “to do list, ” expects him to “close units with one sharp knife blow” (here I translate from the Hebrew version) and fires him within three month at office, is highly unorthodox.    

 

Look at these articles:

(English)   http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1096958.html

(Hebrew) http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1096752.html

A follow-up article in Hebrew:

(Hebrew) http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1097204.html

(I did not find the English version of the second article.)

The articles discuss the recent resignation of Tel Aviv University’s president Zvi Galil. They mention changes in the institution’s constitution which reduced the authority of academic staff in the university administration in favor of “representatives of the public,” primarily businesspeople. The new provisions, claim the articles, reduce the number of votes needed to cut short the term of the university president.

Disclaimer: Not everything written in a newspaper is correct.

Remark: The issues which are debated in Israel regarding governance of the universities and related matters are similar in nature to trends in various other places.  For example, people who advocate reforms in the academic systems towards a more “market-based” model and less power to the faculty often take the Australian changes as a role model. (For some critique on the Australian changes, in the context of mathematics, see here.) Proponents of the changes claim that “the public” (who finance a large part of universities’ budgets through taxes) should have much stronger influence, and university professors should have  smaller influence on the content and quality control of academic research. Opponents note (among other things) that this may lead to businesspeople and politicians taking control of universities. (There are questions regarding the effectiveness of boards of directors also in other institutions.) 

This is an interesting debate. (We debated these issues at great length and passion in the Center for Rationality, in a few round-table events and many email exchanges.)

Some more links: (Heberew) The forum to defend public education, (Hebrew) an article published today by Ariel Rubinstein (among the interesting information in Ariel’s article – four members of TAU board of directors are directors in alltogether 46 firms and institutions!), (English) An article by Yaacov Bergman calling for more public involvement in universities.

Update: An article (Hebrew) in “Haaretz”.

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2 Responses to Alarming Developments In Tel Aviv University

  1. proaonuiq says:

    The adoption of the science-bussines model seems to be an irreversible trend (que remedio!). The purpose is to tranform scientific knowledge into commercial products in order to enhance countries competitiveness.

    At present in many countries the knowledge cycle machinery produces too much heat .There are a lot of talented agents in all phases of the cycle: scientists (motivated by curiosity, produce new knowledge), engineers (motivated by effectiveness, produce artifitial systems wich works), entrepreneurs (motivated by usability, produce usable products), risk-capitalists (motivated by benefits, produce high yield products) but their actions are not coupled. Too much papers are not incorporated into egineering systems, too much prototypes are not converted into usable products and too much usable products when marketed does not produce finantial yields.

    I+D+i+¿y? government policies try to create a virtous knowledge cycle on wich yields generated by science products can be invested into more research. In my country after years of public effort, advances still seems poor (just an impression, i´ve not objective data to judge). It is not a matter of the money injected nor talent, it is a matter of mentality of the agents: as an anecdote a few years ago i was in entrepreneur mode (trying to convert part of my research into a commercial product) and wanted to hire an applied mathematics professor from a public university; he (she) answered me that he/she was not interested in applying his mathematics (sic). In all this is a very interesting sociological problem (how to create such a virtous knowledge cycle while keeping as much as posible the freedom of the agents involved) wich interests me a lot.

  2. Gil Kalai says:

    Thanks for the comment, proaonuiq. Indeed it goes to the heart of the discussion.

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