Parent Petition- Rothberg Mechina.
To our parents,
Hebrew University and The Rothberg Mechina are putting us, your children’s, physical and mental health at risk and possibly damaging our academic careers.
The COVID-19 virus changed the world in ways we never could have imagined. As we came back from the small break between semesters the virus took over, and appropriately, online classes were put into place VIA Zoom. While the new format of learning was difficult, we banded together, reviewed virtually, made sure we checked on our friends and, most importantly, did our best to keep ourselves healthy. As the second half of the semester arrived, the virus was in full force and we were in a month-long isolation period. We could not leave our houses at all. Police lined the streets ensuring that all travel was truly essential.
We learned how to cope with the new online platforms. We took our tests VIA Zoom in a way that protected the integrity of the test; we had to keep our cameras on and the teacher had to be able to see us throughout the exam. This ensured we worked alone and with integrity.
About a month ago, Israel was rated as one of the top eight countries for virus control and the country began to open. Within two weeks, the numbers began to rise, and that is when we received an E-mail that made no logical sense. “Tests will be held on campus, and in person.” At first, we began to discuss as a student body the fears of testing on campus and in person due to catching or spreading the virus. Our rate of discussion and need for action quickly increased. As the days went on, more and more cases were being discovered around Israel, yet still no word about any consideration of finals being held online rather than in person.
Approximately three weeks ago, we came together as a student body, and one of our students wrote a petition asking the school to reevaluate their decision to bring us on campus in light of the threat of increase in virus cases and its dangers. (https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/final-exams-in-time-of-corona?fbclid=IwAR29b90ucBszLMRfbs6R5x1Uhh0r-f5wdkvL5lKQ7CEuHpziWcyRsV-ivY8)
This petition was met with the response of: “It is the Ministry of Health and Educations’ choice to hold finals on campus.” We read through the laws ( https://che.org.il/395543/ ) and discovered that the law gave the right and the ability to universities to have finals on campus, not that the ministries force the tests to be on campus. We quickly rebooted with another request for more detailed information as to why they were not doing the tests online, like the midterms. Once again were met with no logical response other than, “It is the Ministry of Health and Educations Choice,” time and time again.
Last Thursday, the situation took a serious turn with the news that, “Ramat Gan, and Ariel University find students positive after their return to classes and labs.” Two Institutions. During this time period, we reached 200 cases. We waited for a response from our academic leaders about finals, but there was nothing. The day after, “Off Campus of Tel Aviv finds student sick with Corona after returning to tests and labs.” Three institutions and still nothing about our finals. Last Sunday, one of our students together with a student from Ariel University, started a nationwide petition to not have tests on campus, rather Via Zoom to protect ourselves.
Despite the rise in cases and the growing fear among students, the university allowed a lab class of 15 to occur on campus. In that class, a woman was discovered as testing positive for the Coronavirus. It happened. Exactly as we feared. Our friend, sick with Corona, and now a whole class was in isolation due to a careless decision made by our university. Four institutions. There was no email to the university population apologizing, no email explaining that someone was found to be ill with Covid in our program, no email assuring us the university is reviewing and taking action, no email assuring us of anything. There was nothing. Only those involved in the lab were notified . But we heard, and we wanted to make our voices heard, so we began uniting with other universities around the nation and within 24 hours, the nationwide petition was signed by over 15,000 students. With this attention, along with numerous emails to professors and academic leaders, and cries from students for help, two of our classmates - one being one of the members involved in starting the 15,000 student movement, and one with a connection to a news source - successfully appeared on channel 20 National News in Israel to demand that after a total of five institutions were affected, there was enough evidence and information to make it clear that the university should not be endangering us by taking this risk.
After all this we finally received an email from the university with their explanation. It stated: Cameras cannot be forced to be on due to privacy issues, so we cannot ensure the integrity of the test.” Up to now, the midterms were done with cameras forced to be on, and if not, the test would be invalidated. Additionally, in order to be marked present in most classes, a student’s camera had to be on. So until now, was all that illegal?
The next thing they told us was that the elementary schools have gone back to frontal learning a while ago. 160+ schools were closed down, and thousands of staff, students, and then parents, had to go into isolation. Clearly, that reopening did not work. We are not in elementary school. A large majority of us rely on these tests to get into our chosen academic programs next year. When brought into a scenario where six times the virus caused illness and quarantine, and it was clear that opening to in person classes did not work, there is no clear-headed thinking. There was, however, a chaos of a day where no one checked temperature or masks at the entrance of the university on the day of a final. There is stress and anxiety of the situation being in such a situation. There is a want to get out as fast as possible, and in many cases a fear of even going into the exam. As we explained in our petition, isolation (or bdud in Hebrew), will cause us to drown.
To date, (June 20th) six institutions have had classes go into isolation, including one of our own Mechina classes. With the number of cases surpassing 300 cases daily in Israel, and that number still on the rise, and with little leadership or guidance from our academic leaders, we were required to go into finals starting Thursday, and will be required to appear for all of our finals this week. We have seen departments both at Hebrew U and other institutions move their tests to fully online or project based exams. It is possible. We have solutions, we have student leaders ready to discuss possible solutions, but the Mechina and Hebrew University are not collaborating or working with us.
To our parents and whoever is reading this, we are genuinely scared. We are worried, we cannot do isolation again, or even worse get sick. Our heads are barely above the water, and we are about to drown. Please help us.
On Monday, a student representative will be meeting VIA Zoom with the governments emergency board regarding the return to Higher Education Institutions, and we need support. Please Sign below.
The Hebrew University Rothberg Mechina for Olim Chadashim 2019-2020