Some faculty members told Ynet they had agreed to teach at Ariel, only after receiving assurances that it would eventually become a university. They said they were considering the possibility of quitting their jobs.
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"The decision saddened us," said Nir Shvalb of the center's Department of Industrial Engineering. "It seems as though some members of the Higher Education Council's planning committee want us to go to research centers in the US, but we like it here and gave our souls to the institution. We do not plan on leaving."
'Saddened.' Shvalb (L) and Ben-Moshe
Shvalb stopped short of calling the committee's decision political, but claims it was not academic concerns that motivated the committee members. "People said the whole issue was a political one, but I said the committee was comprised of scientists who examine things matter-of-factly. Now I don't know anymore," he told Ynet.
"On the one hand the State invests a lot of money in bringing researchers back to Israel, but then it throws away the money it invested by not opening another research institute and not encouraging other scientists to come to (the Ariel Center)."
Boaz Ben-Moshe, from the center's Department of Computer Science & Mathematics, also criticized the committee's decision. "With all do respect, the Israeli economy is galvanized by young researchers, not 70-year-old professors," he said. "The legal foot-dragging will eventually close this place down."
Some faculty members are considering resigning from the Ariel Center over the decision not to grant it university status. "I came here from abroad, out of ideology. I had much more lucrative offers, but I chose to come here. I was under the impression that we would eventually be given university status," said Alex Schechter, of the Chemistry Department.
"Now I really don’t know what to do. My colleagues are also considering leaving the school," he said.
Some of the students at the Ariel Center are also considering the possibility of enrolling in other schools, where they would be able to continue their research. "I want to get my Ph.D here, but if I won't be able to – that will be problematic," said Moritz Pilosoph, who is studying for his master's degree.
In 2005, the government decided to consider the establishment of universities in Ariel and Safed. In 2007, the Ariel Center received temporary approval for an upgrade in its status and was given five years to meet the academic university criteria.
The decision sparked fierce arguments relating to the center's West Bank location. Members of the Higher Education Council recently expressed concern that the college's fate will be decided by the political echelon citing a clause regarding the matter in a coalition agreement between the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu.
Tensions soared after university presidents sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling him to prevent the institute from being granted university status for fear of hurting the entire higher education system.