At beginning of the academic year at Tel Aviv University, the university announced that, due to the war, only public activities organized by the university authorities or the student union would be allowed on campus in the first semester. On January 11, 2024, we sent legal correspondence to the university, together with Adalah, with a request to rescind the decision.
In the correspondence, Attorney Suhad Bishara from Adalah and Attorney Anne Suciu from ACRI argued that this is an extreme and sweeping directive that in effect prohibits any public event, including demonstrations, discussions, performances and ceremonies. They argued that if the university believes that in a particular case there is a concrete concern with near certainty for the safety and security of university visitors, it may prohibit the holding of the particular event, but that it preemptively and disproportionately prevented any possibility of holding demonstrations or discussions, setting up booths, organizing movie watching and holding other public activities. They also noted that the decision would have increased harm to Arab students.
In response to our inquiry, the Vice Rector replied that the university has not banned, and certainly not sweepingly, any public activity on campus: "the university has not prohibited and does not intend to prohibit the very activity of student groups on campus and meetings of those active in them." At the same time, however, the Dean of Students refused to allow the Hadash student group to hold a lecture on student rights in institutions of higher education on campus. With an emphasis on disciplinary committees. The reason for the refusal was that due to the war and the mobilization of the reserve units there is a shortage of security guards, and therefore only urgent external events are approved during this period.
On January 25, 2024, we appealed the decision to the Vice Rector on behalf of the Hadash group. In the appeal, ACRI's Attorneys Gadeer Nicola and Tal Hassin argued that the Dean's reasons indicate a sweeping policy of the university to prevent public activity on campus. We argued that the Dean's decision violates the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and equality; that the planned activity – a lecture in a closed hall, attended by approximately 60 students – does not impose a special burden on the university's security unit and does not require an extensive allocation of security guards, If any.
Regarding the claim that this is not an urgent incident, we wrote that many students, Arab students in particular, are persecuted during this period for expressions they posted on social networks, and are frequently required to appear before disciplinary committees, and therefore information regarding students' right to expression and to deal with disciplinary proceedings is urgent and essential.
Following our request, the university's Public Activities Committee issued a new notice to the student groups stating that they will be able to hold public activities, but due to the circumstances, each group will be allowed only one public activity for the remainder of the semester. The message was attached to the Vice-Rector's response (Hebrew) to our inquiry, where he emphasized that he shares our view of the University's obligation to safeguard freedom of expression and diversity of opinion.