Message from TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat Upon Taking Office in 2019
Dear members of the Tel Aviv University community,
It is my privilege to have been chosen as head of an institution as prestigious as Tel Aviv University. But it is not only a privilege; I also bear a weighty responsibility toward the academic faculty, administrative and technical staff, students, and supporters around the world, as well as to Israeli society. I am proud to take on this responsibility.
Before continuing, I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to my predecessor, Prof. Joseph Klafter, on behalf of myself and the entire University community, for his enormous contribution to the development and advancement of the University, and to wish him much success in his future path.
A little less than 40 years ago – it feels like only yesterday – I was accepted into law studies at Tel Aviv University. I never thought I would be a researcher and faculty member of the University, let alone President of the University. I thought I'd be a lawyer, and perhaps someday serve as a judge like my parents did. But life does not always turn out as planned. I soon found myself on a direct path to a JSD, and thereafter at Yale University for post-doctoral studies. On my return from Yale, I was accepted as a member of the Buchmann Faculty of Law at TAU.
Although I was captivated by research and teaching, I quickly realized that I would like to have an impact on society in additional ways. This desire motivated me to become Dean of the Faculty of Law. A similar desire to contribute and make an impact propelled me, 17 years later, to submit my candidacy for the position of President of Tel Aviv University.
My tenure as dean was a special period for me because, among other things, I was introduced for the first time to what was happening at the University beyond the red-brick building of the Faculty of Law. The huge diversity of disciplines at the University enthralled me – indeed, there is no academic institution in the country, and few in the world, that offer such a comprehensive range of areas as our University. I found I was as intrigued by speaking with researchers whose fields were vastly different from mine, such as in the Exact and Life Sciences, as with those whose research areas were much closer, such as in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts.
After receiving the news that I had been recommended by the Search Committee to be President of the University, I set up meetings with heads of departments and other faculty members on campus. It was a fascinating experience: I found myself on more than one occasion having conversations with people on the topic of their research, only to realize that we barely touched on the ostensible reason for the meeting – and that was for me to learn about their department. I know that as President of the University I will have many complex tasks ahead of me, but one thing I will always value, and plan to continue, is this interaction with our wonderful faculty members.
As President, I stand before many challenges, which I welcome. Some of the issues that I intend to address right from the start are: strengthening the international aspect of the University; promoting interdisciplinary research and teaching across the campus; diversifying the faculty and students; creating long-term relationships with Israeli researchers abroad; continuing the efforts to make the campus as supportive as possible for women and minority students; improving the standing of the Humanities; reinforcing the University's links with, and contribution to, the economy and society in general; and enhancing the University's influence on the higher education system and the education system as a whole.
Another important goal that I intend to advance is improving the learning experience. We have the best students in the country and must continually engage them. Among other steps, we should introduce new interactive technologies in each classroom and expand online learning. I believe in a combined approach, whereby online studies are supplemented by traditional classroom teaching. This hybrid method will reduce the number of classroom hours while enabling learning in smaller groups.
One of my most important duties as University President is to ensure academic freedom. We must have free and open expression of thought, in both research and teaching, and I assure you that I will strongly defend this freedom and safeguard its principles on my watch.
The position of University President is the role of a lifetime – the greatest challenge I have ever faced and one that I will endeavor to fill to the very best of my ability. I have full trust in you, my friends and colleagues, to join me on the long and fascinating journey on which I am now embarking.