Prof. Joseph Klafter's speech at the Tel Aviv University Senate
Wednesday 21 October, 2009
Ever since the Search Committee's completion of its mandated task and my selection as the nominee for the presidency, I have faced much turmoil and internal struggles, media exposure that I am not used to, and more. I will attempt to answer a question that demands an answer, not least of which to myself: Why, after all this, do I stand before you today?
In the past, I have been asked to submit my candidacy for several posts at the University, but declined to do so. I was immersed in my research and in chairing the Israel Science Foundation, both of which I am proud of. When I was called upon to appear before the Search Committee, and I reflected upon the University's situation following this past summer's traumatic events, I felt that, despite the seemingly impossible task ahead, I would step up to the challenge. The University is for me, as it is for you, home.
The Search Committee observed that I didn't seem to demonstrate "enthusiasm over the position." Enthusiasm? What is required here is determination! Determination to work hard, repair and heal - and this is not a one-man job, but rather a collaborative effort that spans the entire campus: the academic faculty, administrative staff and students.
Since I joined the University in 1987, I don't recall a crisis as severe as the one we find ourselves in today. This is not simply a financial crisis. A rift has developed between the faculty and management, stemming from steps taken that most of us find non-normative and unacceptable. This rift must be bridged, and renewed trust and cooperation must be created between the faculty and management. I'd like to stress that beyond the internal reforms, we must channel our energies toward a fundamental change in the approach to higher education on the national level.
I would never have accepted the position of president if I did not have great faith in the enormous potential of our university. On our campus virtually all fields are represented - an advantage we must utilize. We offer a combination of excellent research, the highest teaching standards and social involvement. These must all be nurtured and advanced.
The mission of the president, among other goals, is to continue building up the academy. Our strength flows from our faculty members and their quality, dynamism and motivation. We must focus on securing more positions (again, working on a national level), absorbing scientists, reducing the average age of the faculty, and bringing in new blood to the system. This must apply to all fields represented on campus, and from this endeavor will spring excellence.
And now regarding the pressing issues that I mentioned at the beginning of my talk: I call upon the Executive Council and the Board of Governors to work together now for the good of the University and its advancement. Yesterday I met with the Chairs of the Executive Council and the Board of Governors to devise a joint statement on revising the TAU constitution, which we began to outline today. This is an important step forward, though much work still remains to be done. The general principles are: strengthening the office of the president, of the Senate and of the Board of Governors. There is no doubt - and I speak for all sides - that we must reinstate in the constitution the appropriate checks and balances. I intend to lead the constitutional reform in collaboration with the Senate, the Board of Governors and the Executive Council.
I see this Senate session as heralding a future of action and productivity. I feel that out of crisis, we can emerge stronger and with a clearer vision for Tel Aviv University.
Wishing a good and fruitful academic year for us all, I thank you.