Social Responsibility of Higher Education Institutions

Social Responsibility of Higher Education Institutions, Tel-Aviv, March 22, 2007

The study-day Social Responsibility of Higher Education Institutions was initiated jointly by the University of Haifa and the Academy-Community Partnership for Social Change, with the support of the Talloires Network. The day consisted of two main parts. In the first part presidents and representatives of higher education institutions presented policy and programs in six universities and colleges – Haifa University, Tel Hai Academic College, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Emek Yezreel College, Achva College, Hadassah College, and the Academy of Music and Dance. The second part of the day, open to faculty members teaching or interested in developing community engaged courses, included presentations of two community engaged courses in the field of human rights.

 

Social Responsibility in the Academy as a Personal and Institutional Vision

In her opening remarks, Dr. Irit Keynan, Assistant to the President of Haifa University regarding Social Responsibility, described the path chosen by the University of Haifa, tying social engagement with students' academic courses, both in their specific discipline and through general courses that are specially designed to guide students' work in the community. Over 3,000 students out of 16,000 students at the University of Haifa are socially active. In addition to the development of courses, the university has allocated research grants, and initiated an annual conference on social responsibility.

 

The Global Network of Higher Education Institutions Committed to Social Responsibility, and Conditions for Joining the Network

Prof. Robert Hollister, Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University introduced the vision of the Talloires Network, which is an international network of universities and colleges that aims to strengthen the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education. Prof. Hollister invited all participants of the study day to encourage the heads of their respective institutions to join the Network, and assist in shaping its development and collaboration. He also suggested that a local network could be developed in Israel, to strengthen and enhance current developments.

Prof. Hollister explained that the present time is one in which there is growing attention to social responsibility, including higher education institutions and university programs that promote student engagement and aim to be relevant to community needs. There are more and more programs developed in different countries, and growing regional and international higher education associations. Higher education is expanding, especially in developing countries, which is an opportunity to apply more academic resources to social engagement. Many models exist today, due to these trends, and therefore there are many programs that we can learn from.

The conference of university presidents held in September 2005 in Talloires, France, organized by Tufts University and Innovations in Civic Participation, brought to the formulation of the Talloires Declaration 2005, expressing the wish of the participants to continue to work together. In the Declaration, the members of the Network agreed to expand civic engagement and social responsibility programs, ensure the academic quality of these programs, create partnerships between institutions, communities, and governments, and exchange knowledge and raise awareness about the role of higher learning institutions in relation to society. Member institutions conduct a self-assessment of how civic engagement is integrated at different levels within the institution, as well as documentation of programs. The Network implements a global project on literacy, perceiving the challenges of literacy, broadly defined, to be universal.

 

Ms. Susan Stroud, Executive Director of Innovations in Civic Participation, and coordinator of the Network, emphasized that joining the Talloires Network requires that the heads of the institutions give their efforts and time to the membership. Membership in the Network has been based upon the model of Campus Compact that relies on the leadership of university presidents, on their personal commitment that is necessary to bring about change, to take things further after the assessment is conducted. Participation in the Talloires Network provides access to information, the opportunity to advocate together in affecting governmental policies, development of joint projects, and sharing of strategies and practices.

 

The Academy-Community Partnership for Social Change

Dr. Daphna Golan, Director of the Academy-Community Partnership for Social Change, spoke about the development of the Partnership. About five years ago a group of faculty members, students, activists, representatives of social change organizations, met to study the social action of students and the academy in the community, and how it might be possible to further encourage student activism. The group finally initiated a mapping study of student social engagement in Israel, which Dr. Golan directed together with Prof. Jona Rosenfeld and a group of students. The study found that there are thousands of active students throughout the country, but very little cooperation and sharing of knowledge, very few faculty members involved, and that these activities are not influencing the manner of instruction and research in the academy. Further, the study concluded that policy in this area has not been devised.

Following the study and its findings, the Academy-Community Partnership for Social Change was established at the Faculty of Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to serve all institutions of higher education in Israel. The Partnership has cooperated with the Council for Higher Education that decided to support social involvement of students and the academy. Further to organizing study days for introducing community engaged courses and programs, and encouraging partnerships, the Partnership works to advance courses that integrate action for human rights and theoretical study. Dr. Golan spoke of the statewide seminar for student activists that the Partnership is holding in April 11-12 in Nazereth, to encourage the exchange of knowledge between active students throughout the country.

Dr. Golan shared her thoughts about questions and dilemmas that could be discussed during the study day: What should be the commitment of the academy? What are the significant ways of social engagement? What do we mean by social action of students? What do we want to change in society? How do we advance social engagement programs?

 

Dr. Irit Keynan, Dr. Daphna Golan, Prof. Robert Hollister, Ms. Susan Stroud

 

Part I: Presentation of Policies of Social Responsibility of Higher Education Institutions

 

Tel-Hai Academic College

Prof. Shmuel Shamai, Vice President for Academic Affairs of Tel Hai Academic College, presented the social responsibility policy of the college which is situated in the northern periphery of Israel, with 2,350 students, 75% of which are residents of the area. One of the college’s main objectives is strengthening the area in which it resides. Prof. Shamai spoke of the sound relations that were formed with the surrounding communities, which were very important during the Second Lebanon War - many of the students were involved in assisting communities around Tel Hai. A total of 25% of the students are active every year in community projects, with over 50% active at some point throughout their undergraduate studies.

Departments in which social engagement is integrated are: psychology, education, environmental science, and nutrition. The programs include ties with 30 communities in the area. Many students who are active receive scholarships, either through Perach (National Tutorial Project), or through the Dean of Students – Tel Hai College has one of the highest rates in the country of Perach scholarships. In addition to academic courses or other projects, Prof. Shamai illustrated how different college resources are accessible to the community, such as a special track for adult evening studies. 

 

The Hebrew University

Ms. Noga Zimring, assistant to the Dean of Students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, gave an overview of the social engagement programs at the university, with the participation of Ms. Diana Daniel-Shrem, Director of the Social Involvement Unit at the university. The Hebrew University has some 25,000 students, and is perceived as an elitist institution. The array of programs at the university grew in various ways – from the inspiration of students, staff, and faculty members.

Some community engagement is part of the formal curriculum, in fields such as dental health and nutrition in which participation is mandatory. Other courses – in the school of public policy, business, women’s studies, and law – are elective. When students’ involvement is part of a course, it usually involves academic credit or a scholarship, and integrates at least four hours of community work.

Informal programs at the Hebrew University are implemented in the Unit for Social Involvement. Those involve mainly four leadership programs – social leadership, Arab – Jewish leadership, women leadership and educational leadership. The university also opens its gates to high school students to encourage them to continue on to higher education. University students guide high school students in their matriculation exams, and later in academic courses at the university.

An important step initiated by the president of the Hebrew University this past year, related Zimring, is the Social Involvement Committee, consisting of faculty members and staff in key positions that involve social engagement programs. The committee met this past year to learn about one another's work, with the aim of bringing together resources and developing new programs.

 

Emek Yezreel College

The Emek Yezreel College was introduced by Dr. Ronit Fisher, the new Dean of Students at the college. Dr. Fisher spoke of the college's objective of maximizing access to higher education for the residents of the northern periphery of Israel. The college student population totals 3,600 students. Dr. Fisher spoke of community engagement programs as implemented mostly through the social sciences – economic, media, sociology – and through the Social Involvement Unit. Following the Second Lebanon War, the number of scholarships increased in the north, and as many scholarships require students to be active in some social efforts, an array of new programs and partnerships were created to expand the possibilities of engagement. Most social engagement programs fall under one of the three main frameworks: promoting specific population groups within the academy, community projects developed by the Dean of Students Office, and projects implemented jointly with different NGO's in the area.

 

Achva Academic College

The unique policy of social engagement of Achva Academic College, a small college of 1,300 students, located south of the center of Israel, was presented by Prof. Yosef Zelgov, President of the college. Prof. Zelgov commented that while the location of the college is very much near to the center, the communities in that region are far away from the center, with many towns experiencing unemployment and social and economic hardships. The college grants some 550 scholarships to students who are involved. Residents of nearby communities are invited to lectures on campus, and children are studying media at the campus' radio station. High school students participate in academic courses through which they gain academic credit, while another program brings adults to complete their degrees, with financial support of the local municipalities.  

Another level of social involvement in the community is represented by four annual community engaged courses, academically based, for which students receive academic credit, while they are exempt from paying tuition for those credit points. For example, there is a course involving work with children with special needs, guided by a sociologist of medicine. Faculty members teaching these courses are also exempt from teaching two academic course credits that they are normally committed to teach.

Prof. Zelgov concluded by portraying his dream, in which a bicycle track that the college has initiated, between Kiryat Malachi and the college, will enable students from Achva to live in the disadvantaged town, and travel easily back and forth. Thus more students will remain in the nearby area during their student years, and have a more significant impact. 

 

Hadassah Academic College

Hadassah Academic College, a college offering degrees in a variety of career oriented programs (optometry, photography, hotel management, practical engineering, and more) was presented by Ms. Judy Habani, with the participation of Ms. Yael Lazmi, Dean of Students at the college. Half of the student population in Hadassah College, which totals 1,800 students, comprises of Jerusalem residents, while the second half comes from other parts of the country. Over 800 students who receive scholarships at the college are required to become involved in community work, preferably in their field of study. For example, optometry students are involved in eye examinations in various neighborhoods, including examinations of children in the Ethiopian community, and of senior citizens in homes for the elderly. Students of computer science are involved in Boyer High School in Jerusalem, helping a group of high school students develop a surveillance plan. Students of the college have initiated a volunteer project at a shelter for battered women, installing a computer lab, and work with both women and children at the shelter. This partnership has brought two women from the shelter to study at Hadassah College. Environmental health science students have become involved in one of the high schools in the city, teaching about recycling and making sure a foundation for recycling is set up at the school.

As most programs are related students' professional studies, they provides them with field experience that will be of help to them in their future jobs, serve as an advantage in the labor market. 

 

Academy for Music and Dance

The final words during this session were those of Mr. Michael Klinghoffer, Dean of Students at the Academy for Music and Dance in Jerusalem. Klinghoffer shortly mentioned several dilemmas that he has discussed with students who participate in a project he has initiated this past year. Through this program, music students form the Academy visit every two weeks in Ofakim, working with youth in the periphery town in the south, forming a music group there. Some questions raised are: What it might mean to be a musician and an agent of change? Is music not a manner for expression that comes instead of other ways or action? Will direct social action mean that certain emotions and thoughts will not be channeled through music, not find their way into art? Klinghoffer further spoke of other issues he discusses with his students, questions about the situation of the youth with which they work. If a certain student from Ofakim, as part of the program, participates in a statewide event, experiences an activity that is different from his everyday reality, what happens when he or she has to go back? Are some of these programs actually weakening the children’s environment?

An important element of Klinghoffer’s project is not necessarily the education of students, but education of faculty members, getting them to become more involved. So far several faculty members who have volunteered to give a single lecture gradually joined the project. This has impacted the atmosphere in the Academy.

 

 

The above presentations led to a discussion of the role of faculty members, and the apparent tension between research and social engagement. Dr. Golan mentioned that the Council for Higher Education has asked in its call for cooperation that institutions consider community engagement as a criteria for tenure – a step that will not be easy, but might lead towards gradual change. Prof. Zelgov of Achva College spoke of a current policy at the college of promoting faculty members who are socially active. Other participants agreed that there is no need to view research and engagement as dichotomous. Prof. Zelgov added that an atmosphere of social engagement will develop, and that will improve the ability to integrate social action with research. In his view, the more socially committed faculty members are also the ones that excel in research.

 

Participants also discussed financial support of active students. How is it possible to attain more scholarships? Is it right to require students who receive scholarships to become socially involved? In some cases students are in need of financial support, and cannot afford to volunteer if such support is not a part of the social engagement program. In other cases, requiring students who come from a low socio-economic background to be active, may place upon them unjustified pressure, as they are in a situation that generally requires more support. Participants agreed that there is a need to include some scholarships in all programs, and that it is necessary to advocate together for additional support of the Council for Higher Education in such issues, to enlarge the number of scholarships granted by the state that are not for Perach alone, as well as enlarge the number of scholarships granted for activities during the summer.

 

Participants furthermore spoke of ways to advance significant impact. One suggestion was to form a statewide network for cooperation and sharing of information, and for formulating joint objectives that can lead several institutions as a group. While some participants spoke of the institutions, and their numerous resources, others emphasized the students’ role in social action. Dr. Ronit Fisher focused on the students as the major resource of colleges and universities, and the need to transform their education so that in their future positions they have the awareness and the tools to implement change. Dr. Irit Keynan, on the other hand, stressed the difference in her view between students’ activities and the role of the institution in leading social responsibility. For this reason gaining the commitment of the institution’s president is imperative. Ms. Liema Davidovich, Dean of Students at Ruppin College, spoke of such a process at Ruppin in regard to social responsibility of the college. The management has asked business major students to examine several parameters of social responsibility and is anxious to get the results, and see what might need correction.

 

There are therefore several levels and strategies for integrating social engagement at each institution, and still a need to hold a more elaborate and in-depth examination. Dr. Daphna Golan offered that the Partnership hold additional study days for students and faculty members, events that could be hosted by institutions represented at the meeting. Dr. Aaron Back of the Ford Israel Fund suggested that it would be of great value for each university or college to work both locally and globally. The Partnership, as he mentioned, could be a resource to continue the learning process that has begun. Ms. Susan Stroud recommended that this group of representatives of institutions continue to meet, and that the coming meetings will focus upon describing what their needs might be. The local network could be a forum for debating, sharing strategies, sharing program syllabi, as well as for advocacy with government.

 

 

Part II: Community Engaged Courses for Social Change, Social Justice, and Human Rights

 

Faculty members who teach or would like to teach community engaged courses were invited to the second part of the day.

 

Gender and Human Rights

Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian presented the course she is teaching together with her assistant, Tamar Berenblum, at the Institute of Criminology, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Gender and Human Rights – Between Criminology, Victimology and Social Action. Dr. Shalhoub Kevorkian focused on the way in which the course brings in voices from the margins and maps the situation of human rights in regard to gender issues. As she said: "We are opening a dialogue with theories, a dialogue with ourselves, with NGO's." In this way the course focuses on boundaries, and how it might be possible to cross them, to challenge them.

 

The students participating in the course are Jewish and Palestinian, coming from various disciplines and backgrounds. As part of the course they spend 4-5 hours in the field each week. They chose the problem that they wish to address following a meeting with the organizations which were chosen by Dr. Shalhoub Kevorkian. Most students in the course are graduate students, including two doctoral students, four of them are working in pairs, and the rest are working individually. Dr. Shalhoub Kevorkian explained that the students are assigned a great deal of reading, and are required to write a position paper during the year, and to write an academic article at the end of the year. The students receive a small stipend of $400 from the Partnership.

 

This course is different from other academic courses. Dr. Shalhoub Kevorkian spoke of starting each class with some music and poetry to open up new ideas and create a different atmosphere in the class, and further noted her interactions and support of the students throughout the week.

 

In reviewing the issues and chains which her students are tackling, showing a power point presentation of images that the students brought to describe their projects, Dr. Halhoub Kevorkian spoke of how the course:  "…asks whether human rights are enslaving others. It gives names to the chains".

 

Two students chose to advance the status of Agunot who are women prevented from getting a divorce according to the religious Jewish law. In Israel are close to 20,000 women living in this situation for many years. One student who is a legal scholar is working with Palestinian Bedouin women in the Negev, mapping with them the hardships that they are facing, discussing polygamy, and providing them some legal counseling, as well as collecting data that is constructed form their voices. She is trying to address social policy makers, and is able to form cooperation between several organizations. Another student focuses on women migrant workers who are many times sexually assaulted in the homes and families for which they work. The student is meeting with women foreign workers who have been assaulted, helping them organize, listening to their stories. She questions why there is no system that treats these women, no system that acknowledges what is happening to them. 

Other students volunteer in shelters for battered women, work to prevent sexual assault of children through the internet, and address the case of tenia capitis in Israel. Dr. Shalhoub Kevorkian stressed the unique viewpoints of her students, and the success they have had in organizing events and activating organizations. Some of the events, such as the one about tenia capitis held at the Hebrew University, gave voice to unheard people and brought together some seventy participants to an academic and moving event.

 

Dr. Shalhoub Kevorkian noted that the academy cannot work without the organizations, but also the organizations through the students' action gain access to resources such as questionnaires, research methodology, and more.

 

One of the main difficulties relating to the course is the academic institution itself. Many eyebrows are raised, many questions about the nature of the course. At the moment, Dr. Shalhoub Kevorkian is investing her efforts to ensure that the course continues next year. She concluded with the words: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world."

 

Bureaucracy, Governmentality, and Human Rights

Adv. Yael Berda spoke of the course that she is teaching with Prof. Yehouda Shenhav, Bureaucracy, Governmentality, and Human Rights, at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in Tel-Aviv University. As Adv. Berda mentioned, the course introduces a black hole, an area that is completely unknown to most people in Israel – the bureaucracy of the occupation. The course discusses the civil administration, the military courts, the practices of these places that are not public knowledge. Students in the course become involved in Machsom Watch and Yesh Din, both are women's organizations in which mostly women over the age of 40 are active. This introduces some interesting questions to the students: "How are they going to work their way with this age gap – in activism, in knowledge?" This relationship between the students and the active women was something that Adv. Berda mentioned as very surprising. Life looks different at different ages, and it is interesting to see how people of different ages can begin to work with each other and learn.

 

Other questions that the students had to deal with throughout the year are questions of privilege. At the beginning of the year they did not understand why they need to get up at five in the morning to go to the civil administration office in Etzion. Gradually they learned that activism is something that you try to put into your daily practice, not something you do in the university.

 

The students in the course mostly work in groups. They go to military courts, like Ofer and Salem, to traffic courts, and to Ashkelon and Petach Tikva where there are interrogation prisons of the secret service. These are places in which Machsom Watch and Yesh Din have managed to be witnesses in the courts to learn how they operate. Adv. Berda explained how the act of witnessing is allowing the students to learn, gain information about policy, better understand the system and in this way try to create change. They are learning to deal with the bureaucracy, while the course discusses administration and management theory, and procedural violence, in opposition to physical violence. By observing, the students are able to understand how gradually transformation can be observed from physical power to procedural violence. This concept is not easy to grasp. By meeting those who are part of the bureaucracy the students learn that they are meeting people who make decisions and have dilemmas, and maybe they can speak with them and try to push them out of their aloofness.

 

Throughout the year the students write a "captain's log", including their experiences and associations to the theories discussed in class. They are writing the log, but also writing towards a paper to be completed at the end of the year. Adv. Berda noted one of the students who described in his log a visit to the military court at Petach Tikva, a visit in which he was not listening, but only looking at what was taking place at the court. The student wrote that just by observing he can begin to think about relations of race and nationality in Israel, and how this is related to the bureaucratic practice and the occupation. 

Another student has decided following the course to write a thesis about the military courts, an issue which has hardly been written about academically. Adv. Berda spoke with enthusiasm about the students who are now speaking with others about what they are doing, speaking of their experiences in other classes as well. Many people at the university and outside did not understand this, and Adv. Berda and Prof. Shenhav found themselves explaining many times how this field experience is connected to an academic course. Adv. Berda expressed her hope that the course might push more students to go into public administration, once they understand the power of the bureaucratic structure. This is one of the ways to achieve change.




 

Group Discussion

The position of faculty members teaching community engaged courses, including the tenure and research systems of the university, were some of the concerns of the faculty members present. They spoke of the institutions that do not reward social engagement of faculty members. The perceived separation between what is considered academic work and what is considered social engagement or activism limits their ability to teach community engaged courses and invest more time in these efforts. Others mentioned the apparent apathy of the academy towards these programs, which seems to be more problematic. Adv. Berda stressed the need to make these courses become an integral part of the university’s active agenda. If institutions draw on courses and programs that involve work in the community to raise funds, faculty members should view this as giving the university the right to acknowledge and present the course. In the long run community engaged programs are a resource for recruiting students, and a resource for research. Dr. Shalhoub Kevorkian asked those present to be cautious of contributing to the university's use of these courses and programs for fundraising. Such use of the programs contributes to the exclusion and otherization of certain populations. The courses themselves need to make sure that they are not perpetuating certain processes of exclusion.

 

In discussing the way the academy itself regards community engaged courses, Ornat Turin and Dalya Markovich, faculty members teaching in teacher training colleges, spoke of their difficult positions. Students at teacher training colleges in Israel are mostly women of lower socio-economic status, Arab or Mizrahi background, and who generally do not have access to the university. Faculty members spoke of these colleges as being more conservative, experiencing greater difficulty gaining acceptance for community engaged courses. Many attempts are rejected, and some programs are not able to break the departmental barriers and create a course that is open to other students at the college. Haggith Gor Ziv, who has initiated the Center for Critical Pedagogy at Kibbutzim College of Education, disagreed and noted it is true that initiating such courses and programs is challenging, but with time things change and it is possible to influence the teacher training colleges as well. The Kibbutzim College of Education has decided this year that every student will be required to complete 60 hours of community engagement, with academic guidance, before finishing his or her degree. Eitan Shoker, faculty member at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, joined Gor Ziv’s words of optimism, sharing the experience of courses at Bezalel that have developed over the years, saying that some things may even become a trend.

Prof. Jona Rosenfeld pointed out the connections that the courses make, connections between organizations, populations at risk, students and the academy. He stressed the need to listen to the students, to acknowledge their power, as well as the power of the voices of the outsiders involved. It is important to give voice to many things that remain unknown, but are happening to this society. Speaking with those who live in poverty, in communities that are excluded, said Prof. Rosenfeld, will enable us to learn of effective ways for working with communities and organizations. The lack of hierarchy enables the joint work of people from different fields.

Continuing the discussion of student power, participants raised questions of how to continue student activism in the future, how can we help students become part of an active community after their studies. Galia Zalmanson of the Center for Critical Pedagogy at the Kibbutzim College of Education, raised the need to relate to the power of students who come from the communities that are normally excluded from the academy.

Another side to students’ power to act is the trauma and pain that students may encounter through community engagement. Pain and harsh experiences are sometimes the price of raising awareness and engaging with community organizations. Dr. Shalhoub Kevorkian mentioned this as an issue that needs to be addressed more in courses.

One of the practical suggestions introduced in this part of the study day was to create access to information about courses through the internet. Mr. Eldad Cidour, who teaches a course Art and Activism in Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, spoke about the possibility of sharing material about courses in thewebsite which has been created for the course. It is an important venue also to form contacts between faculty members and students. This is an open platform that can be used freely. Dr. Golan suggested that another good way for faculty members to learn and share ideas is to visit each other's classes. Prof. Hollister reinforced the importance of visibility and communication of courses that are taking place. He pointed out the great number of syllabi that have been collected by Campus Compact as one way for pointing out the significance of community engaged courses.

Summarizing some of the major points of the presentations and the following discussion, Prof. Hollister shared his observations and insights. He commended the inspiring presentations, that testify in his view to the timeliness of the Academy-Community Partnership’s initiative. Prof. Hollister observed that the courses integrate multiple ingredients, which are powerful in the way they reinforce each other. These include the lectures and readings, direct experience, the production of work that is valuable to the community partners, and an event or product of broader communication (conference, policy papers, etc.). He disclosed his concerns about the challenge to reach a greater number of students, who normally stay away from courses that seem more activist or political – “How can we take elements embedded in classes of human rights and political conflicts, and introduce them into classes of students who are not so politically inclined?” Another issue that Prof. Hollister considered was the possibility to sustain the work involved in community engaged courses, which requires more resources. He asked how it might be possible to broaden their impact?

The issue pedagogy was also put forward by Prof. Hollister, who noted that he was happy to hear the discussion taking place earlier about the power of students. Community engaged courses are a manner of engaged teaching, which is a “route to quality”. Learning about and communicating the way these courses contribute to teaching and research is extremely important, and a good strategy of gaining the attention and support of university presidents.

Susan Stroud conveyed her impression of the courses, noting that it seems that the circle of people who are part of the conversation has began to grow. She encouraged faculty members to use the Partnership to facilitate a discussion about their needs, and to continue and widen the circle. She further stressed the importance of developing a community of faculty members who are committed to engaged teaching, and to thinking how it might be possible to go back and to transform institutions of higher education.  

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