Universities restore ties as row rages

By Moira Schneider, July 14, 2011

Ben-Gurion University (BGU) is reinstating its research agreement with the University of Johannesburg (UJ), four months after the lapse of an institutional relationship between the two.

The universities signed a new contract on Friday to continue their joint research on water purification and the conversion of algae into energy.

Professor Ihron Rensburg, vice-chancellor and principal of UJ, says that the institution "strongly upholds academic freedom and the right of its academic staff to develop relationships with whomsoever they wish" and that the signing of the contract "reinforces UJ's commitment to academic freedom".

Meanwhile, the UJ Petition Committee, which led the campaign to sever relations, "views with contempt attempts by the pro-Israel lobby to mislead the public by implying that the UJ has reinstated its old Memorandum of Understanding with Israel's BGU," adding that the university's Senate had, in fact, reaffirmed its decision to terminate UJ's institutional agreement with BGU last month.

Approached for comment, Dr Bertie Lubner, president of the South African Associates of BGU, said that the top echelons of both BGU and UJ had agreed not to debate the matter in the press.

Last updated: 2:02pm, July 14 2011