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 02 Febraury 2016

Statement by the Executive Council of Bethlehem University on the ongoing students' strike

To our sons and daughters, the students of Bethlehem University,

Greetings,

At the time we hoped the semester will start peacefully, the Student Senate escalated their strike actions and announced that eight students have started a hunger strike on Sunday evening, 31 January 2016. As such, the strike and the suspension of classes that the Student Senate announced enter its eleventh day, without concern that the current semester has reached a critical point.

In spite of the Student Senate’s attempt to downplay the grave consequences of these actions on the viability of the semester, this does not make it less critical and threatening for the current semester and for the Summer Session. The statement issued by the Academic Council, which is composed of the Deans and the Chairpersons of the different departments and programs, last Saturday aimed to provide the students with the overall picture of the existing situation and to call for resuming the dialogue concerning certain outstanding issues that can be discussed throughout the current semester, because dialogue is the only way to resolve the current crisis. If, for an example, we resume classes next week, graduation will be delayed to the end of June, and that will affect the summer session. And then what? What will happen to this semester?

To set the record straight, Bethlehem University is a non-profit institution that relies on external sources of funding to cover its operational budget. If the University were to rely on student tuition for this purpose, the cost of the credit hour would range from 70 to 80 JDs on average. There are many donors who support the educational process at the University and who cover the remaining balance of the cost of your education as well as provide the scholarships and financial aid that many of you receive. And so, many of you receive full or partial scholarships or financial aid, and about half of the students receive additional scholarships to help you get the education and acquire the knowledge necessary for building Palestine the way its people want it to be. 

In order to give the students and the local community the big picture they deserve to put the situation in its proper context away from inaccurate information circulating in the news media and the social media, we ascertain what was agreed upon during the previous negotiation meetings with the Student Senate:

  1. Canceling the late payment fees for all students, provided that students pay the first installment at least no later than the third day of the beginning of the semester;

  2. Delaying payment of graduation fees to the last semester;

  3. Increasing the wages of work studies from 150 to 180 and from 75 to 90 for part time work.

  4. Concerning the first three demands related to increase the fund of students with financial needs, the University agreed to deposit $10,000 in this fund per semester, in addition to the funds that are currently provided and launching a campaign to raise more funds and secure other sources of funding.

  5. The students who are not financially able to purchase original textbooks will not be forced to do so, even though Bethlehem University is committed to the application of the copy right law issued by the Palestinian Authority.

  6. During the first month after classes resume, the Academic Council will deliberate the Senate‘s demand to allow three credit hours to be added in the Summer Session to the schedule of graduating students for them to graduate with their cohort; the Council will look into this matter in more comprehensively to avoid delaying the graduation of these students.

  7. Inviting one representative from the Student Senate (through a formal letter signed by the student indicating his or her name and their responsibilities and duties) to serve on the scholarship and Social Survey Committee.

  8. Providing a cover for the Millennium plaza in the summer to protect from the heat of the sun.

With regard to the issue of the instalment fees, Bethlehem University is committed to the 2012 agreement until the present day. The agreement states that such a fee will be maintained as agreed upon and only students with financial needs will be exempt from it with accordance to the results of the social survey. Yet the Student Senate insists on removing these fees completely.

The insistence of the Student Senate to proceed with the strike is an irresponsible act and will drag the University and the students into a dire situation.

Bethlehem University rejects outright the attempt to portray her as the main enemy of the student movement. The Administration has cooperated with the students and dealt with them in very positive ways in all it deemed fit and possible and has approved certain demands that were possible to meet, and promised to look into some others, in full belief that the educational process is an integrated process, involving the students, faculty and administration as one unit. The University also condemns the irresponsible statements made by two Student Senators claiming that the University did not commit to the 2012 agreement, and this is not true.

Out of the University’s concern for the student's interest and out of our belief that education is a fundamental service to this nation, its sons, and daughters, and a path for liberation, the liberation of the homeland and the liberation of thought from conventional thinking and backwardness, true heroism lies in the ability to make clear distinctions and understanding the limits that we must respect, because exceeded these limits will have adverse effects on the students, the employees, and the institution as a whole.

In order to salvage the semester, and in response to the demand of increasing numbers of students to start the current semester as soon as possible and to avoid incurring more damages to the Bethlehem University family, we call upon the Student Senate to end all forms of strike and to resume classes immediately. The University reiterates that the door open for future negotiations, but without undue pressure, threats, or the disruption of the semester.

Let’s move forward in our educational process before it’s too late and let’s discuss the issues in a more natural and comfortable environment, away from pressures and charged atmospheres; let’s all learn from our mistakes, and then we can record our victories.

 

Bethlehem University's Executive Council

 

 
Bethlehem University Foundation
Email: brds@bufusa.org
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
E-mail: info@bethlehem.edu
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine