The Hebrew University student union has decided to allow segregation of men and women at the events it organizes. During such events, partitions would be erected in certain areas, with another area reserved for mixed participation. The union says this will allow religious students who wish for segregation to participate, without offending their religious beliefs. âThis is a continuation of our approach, which tries to show consideration and inclusion,â explains the union.
According to the rector of the university, Professor Barak Medina, the university authorities will have to approve such segregation on the campus. “Our overall policy remains unchanged,” he said. âUniversity events are not separated, by gender or by community. Segregation sends a hurtful message of exclusion, which is discriminatory.
Sources from the student union say it will be difficult to oppose segregation after it is officially recognized. A few years ago, a tumultuous session at the university law school student union ended with a decision not to allocate separate space for female students.
Under the sign of “the integration of religious populations” and “the promotion of egalitarian spaces as far as possible”, a conference organized by the student unions last week approved by a large majority a proposal to operate spaces separated for men and women, in addition to a common space. . In the explanatory comments on this decision, it was noted that there had recently been requests to allow participation in events by creating separate areas for men and women. The students said that without it they would not be able to participate in the events, which would reflect the fact that the student union was not representing them as well. The document states that allowing such segregation at events such as Students’ Day or during graduation celebrations is “an important step on the way to building bridges between different groups and the student union.” .
According to the decision, the establishment of separate areas would allow men and women to dance separately. The establishment of such zones would be based on technical considerations (such as limiting the number of participants), as well as examining the request for such segregation before each event. The union promises that if such zones are established, they will not be located in a central zone, there will be no enforcement at the entry points in these zones and gender equality will be maintained. Past experience shows that in publicly organized events where gender segregation was introduced, these principles were not respected. Other clauses stipulate that the character of the events would not be changed and that no event would take place for which there would be only one option of segregation. “This is not a precedent for the segregation of people in a public space, but a mark of consideration and establishment of links between unrepresented groups and the union,” said the document.
The agreement allowing the establishment of separate zones for men and women contradicts a 2016 resolution taken by the student union of the faculty of law, which stipulated that no barriers would be erected between men and women during the the faculty’s annual ball (this was a separate student union). Then the problem arose after some religious students requested a separate space for the dance, so that they could participate as well. The request was criticized by students and faculty alike, and the issue of segregation has not been raised since. Unlike the previous occasion, this decision mentions the erection of two separate areas for both sexes.
Professor David Enoch of the Hebrew University Law School criticized the student union’s decision. âSegregation has an impact on the flavor of an event and gives a clear message about the place of women in the public sphere,â he says. “Anyone who claims this is a trivial matter, showing consideration for a weak minority, should be suggested to consider a situation in which part of the area is allocated to Jews only, or couples only. heterosexual. Gender segregation in events, even if only partial, hurts all those who value gender equality. The “consideration” is always one-sided, and it is disappointing to see students, most of whom are apparently liberal, once again fall into the trap of this false rhetoric. ”
Senior university professors expressed unease over the student union’s decision, but noted that it was an autonomous body. According to the rector Medina, âit was a decision of principle which did not determine its modalities of implementation nor the events during which it would be operated. If and when the union asks to implement the decision at campus events, the university leadership will need to approve it. This issue has not yet been discussed. The university affirms that it does not interfere and is not a partner in the decisions taken by the student unions.
The student union says different events will be tailored to the needs of religious students, allowing the entire student body to participate. They added that each event will be assessed separately and that students who do not want segregation will not be affected.