Following the publication of a proposed ethical code of conduct for university lecturers, which was drafted by Prof. Asa Kasher at the behest of Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) leadership submitted a policy statement on Monday, June 12 to Bennett and all members of the Council for Higher Education (CHE).
Yohanan Plesner, IDI President; Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Prof. Yedidia Stern, IDI Vice Presidents; and Prof. Hanoch Dagan, IDI Senior Fellow, noted in their statement that, “The new ethical code includes a broad and unacceptable definition of a political concept that does not make elementary distinctions - specifically, between systematic propagandizing and free and open discussion. The proposed code groups such topics as economics, law and even the theory of evolution under a single political definition, thereby endangering the future of academia.”
In the statement, the authors explain that the code contradicts the Council for Higher Education Law, which says that academic institutions have the autonomy to manage these matters independently (section 15 of the CHE Law). Furthermore, they explain, a code of ethics is not a law enacted by the political class, but rather a procedure decided upon by a group of professionals. Therefore, it would be appropriate, if need be, to assemble a group of faculty members from different institutions to develop a code and include students and other public figures in the process.
In addition, the opinion of IDI leaders included an analysis by Adv. Dr. Guy Lurie, a researcher at the Institute's Defense of Democratic Values Program, of the ethics code used by American universities. Lurie's research puts to rest any comparisons made between Prof. Kasher's proposal and the code used by American institutes of higher education.
In his analysis, Dr. Lurie focused on three points:
First: The American ethics code is not a regulation imposed by the government, but rather a voluntary agreement of principles entered by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which is essentially a professional organization.
Second: The American code is a classic educational protocol that includes positive general guidelines. In comparison, the proposed Israeli academic ethical code is a series of disciplinary regulations that include specific and detailed prohibitions.
Third: In terms of content, the American code provides lecturers with wide operational latitude and focuses on general issues.
Meanwhile, Prof. Kasher's proposal doesn't only deal with lecturers, but also specific institutions and activities, such as syllabuses, research centers and various academic disciplines.
For more information, please contact Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, Director of International Communications, at 972-50-718-9742 or jaffemaayan.idi.org.il.