Friday, April 29, 2005

Bar Ilan University in the Defense of Academic Freedom

Bar Ilan University and the College of Judea and Samaria (CJS) are in the news. So here is some additional information for those interested in the subject. The CJS has recently submitted a request to have its research Master of Arts degree recognized by the Council of Higher Education (CHE) in Israel. Such a step is necessary if a student who completes his MA at the CJS plans to go on to doctoral studies in an Israeli university.

The relationship between the CJS and the Council of Higher Education in Israel is a bit complicated. If you check out the accreditation situation, it becomes clear that the CJS is not accredited by the CHE. However, the CHE does note on its website that the CJS is accredited by a separate body which is called the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria CHE-JS). This Council is situated at Bar Ilan University. The CHE-JS does not have a website and does not reveal to the public its composition. So we do not know the identity of the people who work out of an Israeli institution and consider themselves qualified to confer accreditation for BA studies and MA studies (non-research trend up to this point).

On the other hand, the CHE-JS is quite candid about the source of its jurisdiction and states that it operates on the basis of a decree issued by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In my translation, the decree is for the ‘Administration of Local Authorities (Judea and Samaria) [tsav b’dvar nihul moatsot mikomiut] Number 892 from the year 1981, article 3 (h), addendum 4 – Orders regarding Education.’

Thus, the relevant IDF commander created a council for higher education in the West Bank. Some hard questions:
Can an army officer create either directly or indirectly a council for higher education?
Who defined the function and the goals of this CHE-JS? The IDF? The Council itself?
Who are the members of the CHE-JS and who appointed them?
Who in Israel decided and when was it decided to recognize the degrees granted by the CHE-JS?
What is the past, present and future relationship between Bar Ilan and CJS?

It would be stretching the concept of academic freedom a bit to include the right to set up and sponsor an ‘institution of higher learning’ in occupied territory.