Academia,  Israel

Israeli student’s successful marks appeal

As an opponent of academic boycotts, I was interested to have this story drawn to my attention. Briefly, an Israeli postgraduate student, Smadar Bakovic, felt she had been given a low dissertation mark by her supervisor, a pro-Palestinian campaigner, Professor Nicola Pratt, who signed the ‘Israel must lose’ letter to the Guardian, as well as various other petitions of the same stripe.

The JC headline is ‘Anti-Zionist professor’s low marks for Israeli – now a distinction’.  However if the student now has a distinction mark, and if her grade only went up by 11%, then her original mark can hardly have been very low.  It’s also important to emphasise that an 11% mark difference between markers is by no means unusual in the arts/humanities.  (Double marking, occasional third marking, and the external examination system work to ensure, as far as possible, that no student should be disadvantaged by differences between individual markers.)  Although the fact that the resubmitted dissertation seems to have been tripled marked gives weight to the student’s feeling that she had been hard done by, it also should be noted that, as the JC article mentions, the student was able to make some changes before resubmission.

But, although I don’t want to jump to conclusions about the reasons why the original mark was comparatively low, I think this is a really important point:

Smadar Bakovic repeatedly told Warwick University she was uncomfortable with Nicola Pratt overseeing her master’s dissertation on Israeli Arab identity.

Given Pratt’s conspicuous involvement in campaigns against Israel, it is completely understandable that an Israeli student might find her an uncongenial supervisor. (And a strongly pro-Palestinian student might have the same problems being supervised by an enthusiastic supporter of Israel.) Ideally academics and students should be able to work together despite such differences – but it seems a pity, given the obvious potential for tension between Pratt and Bakovic, that the dissertation wasn’t second marked to begin with – for both their sakes.

Just one further point It seemed implicit in the JC article that it was *not* doublemarked.  But it may have been.