To: Members of the Higher Education Council
7 October 2012
Re: Concern over the Politics and Government Department, Ben-Gurion University
Dear Council Member,
I am writing in my capacity as President of the International Geographical Union's Commission for Political Geography, which represents hundreds of geography professors and students from five continents. I wish to express our serious concerns regarding recent threats to close the above department, on the basis of an assessment procedure in which the Department was apparently treated differently to all other Israeli Departments.
There are three main reasons for our concern. First, we see it as political intervention which seriously violates the principle of academic freedom. The vital role of the academia will be severely compromised without the freedom to research, teach and publish independently. This of course, applies to Israel like all other countries.
Second, we are familiar with much of the work coming from this department, and find it consistently to be on the highest international standard. This is reflected in the very respected list of books, articles and grants achieved by the department's members. It was only two years ago that our Commission was hosted at BGU by the Politics (and Geography) departments. The event turned out to be an excellent international conference in which several key members of the Department participated. Hence, we are worried about the loss of a Department known for its academic excellence, which has brought new and important insights to the study of politics in Israel and beyond.
Third, we are concerned for Israel's name in the international academic community. It is very uncommon in the democratic world to close down academic departments on the basis of political leaning and ideologies. Closing a department on these grounds will tarnish the name of Israeli academia and its leadership. Hence, we call on the Council of Higher Education to allow the department to continue and thrive, while amending any academic problems if such problems do exist. In the name of academic freedom and academic excellence, and with concern over Israel's international name, we urge you to oppose the current moves to close the department with all means possible.
Prof. Elena Dell'Agnese
President, IGU Commission on Political Geography
University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy