Professor Tzvi Hacohen
Photo: Israel Haderi
Photo: Mickey Koren
Professor Moshe Keveh
Photo: Mickey Koren
Finance Ministry official Eli Cohen
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
University presidents: Semester may be cancelled
Professors pessimistic regarding negotiations with Treasury; Lecturer: Gaps are enormous, we need three months of negotiations. Academic staff chairman: Why are students sitting quietly on side?
As the third week of the university lecturers' strike gets underway, professors are not optimistic on the chances of the protest ending anytime soon. Representatives from the senior academic staff met with Finance Ministry officials Sunday evening but no progress was reported.


Prefossor Zvi Hacohen, the senior lecturers' representative said that Eli Cohen, the Finance ministry official in charge of negotiating with the lecturers, has told them that they can strike all semester if they want – he doesn't care.


"They recognize that there has been an erosion (in wages) but they say in response: We can't give you the money because then everyone would want some as well," Hacohen said.


Professor Moshe Keveh defended the lecturers' efforts and said: "Today, the gaps between the academic staff and the Treasury are enormous, it is impossible to solve this in a couple days; we need three months of negotiations."


Keveh said he was concerned about continuation of the strike and the impact it will have on the students.


As the days and weeks go by with empty classrooms, the time it will take current students to complete their degrees is bound to be affected. After the Second Lebanon War and a students' strike during the previous academic year, this is yet another unwelcome distraction to their studies.


"We're arriving to the critical moment of the 90th minute," Keveh said. "At this moment, we forget the small things: who said what and why – let's roll up our sleeves. If within a couple days it doesn't look like it's going to end — the whole semester is in jeopardy."


The professor added that he did not understand why college students have quietly watched the events unfold and have not gotten involved. "Of course they can influence the events. The question is if they want to suffer or if they want to study," he said.


Gil Goldenberg, head of the Tel Aviv University Student Union, claims that students have been getting involved on behalf of the lecturers. "The problem is that our connection with the government is one-directional. There is complete disrespect from the government."


Goldenberg added that in recent days people have begun calling for a student strike which would prevent the semester from "dragging on" for additional weeks during the exam period.


Meanwhile, on the middle and high school front, meetings between Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Finance Ministry officials and the Teachers Association were held Sunday night. Negotiations to end the strike are ongoing as the protest nears its 4th week.


First published: 11.05.07, 00:25
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