Bar Ilan Uses Ideological Criteria to Fire Faculty Member

Ariella Azoulay, Bar Ilan teacher refused tenure for political motives

Ariella Azoulay, a distinguished lecturer in visual media and cultural studies at Bar Ilan University was refused promotion or tenure for the third time by the University according to Haaretz.  According to a knowledgeable source I consulted, Azoulay had been promised each prior time promotion had been denied that the University would ensure she would succeed the next time.  My source also indicated that it was common at Bar Ilan when the administration did not wish to promote someone that it would stack the committee with members who would ensure the desired result and that this happened in her case.

Azoulay filmed a documentary, I Also Dwell Among Your Own People, about Azmi Bishara, the Israeli Palestinian political leader.  This in particular is said to have incensed Azoulay’s opponents on the faculty.

Haaretz heard from Azoulay’s supporters:

“The university has no germane reason to disqualify Ariella other than her positions. This is a political decision disguised as a professional one.”

According to people familiar with the issue, Azoulay has been passed over in the past by university committees for tenure and promotion to professor

…”Any decision can be validated by means of regulations and secret meetings,” an associate of Azoulay said. If the university was dissatisfied with Azoulay, “how is it that she has been teaching there for more than a decade? Apparently her activities were unseemly to senior university officials,” the associate said.

…”Few people dispute the fact that Ariella Azoulay is one of the most important researchers in cultural studies in Israel today,” Prof. Yehouda Shenhav of Tel Aviv University, said. Shenhav also noted several recent cases of “persecution of lecturers in a political context” at universities, saying that “this is one of the crudest instances of preferring sectorial considerations over academic excellence.”

This is not the first time Bar Ilan has used blatant political considerations in denying an academic promotion. In 2006-2007, Menachem Klein, one of Israel’s leading experts on Palestinian nationalism, was denied a promotion to assistant professor. In that case, the department chair nominated to the promotion committee those who opposed advancement. But unlike in Azoulay’s case, Klein already had tenure and could not be fired.

He’s about to publish a new book, The Shift, whose political perspective may cause some heartburn in the president’s office. And unless Bar Ilan wishes to do away with the tenure system, there’s little they can do. If they ever decide they do wish to abandon tenure, they’ll have ready-made allies in Im Tirzu to support their efforts.