About the Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Vision of the Office
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev sees diversity as a value for promoting excellence, and therefore works to tap the talent of all segments of society in Israel and to create diverse and rich research and teaching spaces that build a common academic space while preserving the identity of its various components. BGU is committed to ensuring a sense of belonging and partnership for everyone entering its gates, to promote discourse and dialog among the various factions of its communities and to cultivate generations of graduates in the spirit of this vision, while preserving academic freedom, freedom of expression and mutual respect.
Letter from the Vice-President
One of the core values of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) is its commitment to the advancement of diversity, inclusion and partnership among the various communities on campus. Our responsibility as an institution is not only to produce and disseminate academic knowledge globally, but we are also responsible for the character of the graduate we strive to shape. The unique reality of the Negev region in the State of Israel which, on the one hand, is situated in the periphery of the country, and on the other hand, is a region embroiled in dispute, presents us with complex challenges. It is our responsibility to prepare our graduates for a world where they can initiate, spearhead and lead with a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to principles of social justice and gender equity, and with awareness of the need to fight against injustice, racism and discrimination. The university campus is the first meeting place where polarized groups, such as Arabs and Jews, regularly interact, and therefore this space has great potential for making the most of the partnership and dialog between them as well as providing an opportunity for each student to get to know the other better with the aim of deepening the relations between them in the job market and in civic life after they graduate.
Diversity and inclusion are challenging issues that have received institutional attention in recent years. The purpose of diversity is not only to bring through the gates of academia the strong students who had all the opportunities and good conditions to be admitted and to choose their fields of study. The goal is also to create opportunities for students from weak educational systems to pursue higher education.
The data show that the diversity index at BGU is low, and that many populations are still underrepresented, both at the student and faculty levels. That said, it is in our hands to improve this situation and become a more diverse and accessible university for marginalized populations.
Still, making higher education accessible to diverse communities is not enough: We must cultivate an inclusive institutional climate, one that will enable realizing the potential for excellence by creating a sense of belonging to the campus. The sense of belonging to the academic space has been proven in studies around the world as raising the commitment and achievements of students and faculty members - male and female alike. This sense of belonging is expressed in the diversity of the curricula and in the visibility of the language, culture and narratives of the various demographic groups sharing the academic space.
Academic institutions sometimes exempt themselves from a commitment to equity diversity and are content with a low representation of students or faculty members from marginalized groups. Equity diversity is an important tier for creating role models for underrepresented groups.
I see the mission of diversity and inclusion as a jigsaw puzzle with four principles - equal representation, inclusion, eradication of racism and discrimination, and the creation of dialog. All pieces of this puzzle must be completed in order to integrate these four principles and make them part of the DNA of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The first principle refers to equal and diverse representation with the aim of opening the gates of academia to underrepresented populations. To achieve this goal, we are working to change policy at the various levels and create unique academic programs for underrepresented populations. Diversity should not be confined to making higher education accessible only to undergraduate students, but also to create a mechanism for preparing researchers of both genders for positions in academia. To advance this process, we have set up academic training workshops for doctoral students who are first-generation university graduates, with a special emphasis on gender equality.
The principle of inclusion pertains to creating an inclusive institutional climate, and in this context, we are working to create activities and training programs that will generate a change in policy with the aim of integrating the principles of diversity and inclusion across campus and giving visibility and legitimacy to populations perceived as “labeled".
A third principle, which is another important piece of the puzzle, is to eradicate discrimination and reduce the manifestations of racism on campus. In collaboration with the Campus Against Racism Forum, we conducted a survey to examine this issue among all students, and initiated a conference aimed at raising awareness of this shameful problem. Groups exposed to expressions of racism on campus made their voices heard, a committee was set up to deal with complaints of discrimination and racism, followed by training programs on the subject for the various faculties. In the wake of the events of May 2021 in which a rise in the threshold of overt racism was witnessed, an emergency forum consisting of senior BGU officials was set up to deal with political crisis situations. The purpose of the forum was to learn from these incidents and create a toolbox for dealing with every possible crisis. In this context, a workshop was provided for Security Unit staff at BGU aimed at providing the tools for dealing with these and other crisis situations.
The last principle pertains to the promotion of dialog among the various groups on campus, and its purpose is to prepare the ground for meetings and for getting to know students and faculty from different ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds on campus. To this end, we have established the Ambassadors of Diversity group that organizes excursions and dialog groups as well as other campus-wide activities.
Thanks to my diversity forum: Adv. Vered Seroussi-Katz, Prof. Yevhar Ganor, Prof. Helali Pinson, Idit Sela. Office Team: Irit Berzin, and Talia Shechner.
Prof. Sarab Abu-Rabia Queder
BGU Vice-President for Diversity and Inclusion