The University: A Good Neighbor?

Dr. Emily SilvermanUniversities can play a major urban role as anchor institutes for the city – opening their campuses and facilities to neighboring areas; enriching the city’s residents in education, health, and culture as well as employment. However, this issue is a complex one, especially in Israel, where universities are literally walled off and access is only possible through guarded entry points. Can the Israeli university actually help create a better city?

This question was at the center of the Urban Clinic launch event, held earlier this year. The mayors of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the presidents of Hebrew University and the Tel Aviv-Yaffo Academic College debated the extent to which the university should be asked to contribute to the surrounding neighborhoods, in addition to maintaining academic excellence. Knesset Member Stav Shafir, a leader of the social protest movement, called on the university to play a more innovative role in the city, including helping to open a long-term rental market. A student’s perspective on the launch is available here. Graduate students pursued this topic in urban clinic courses later in the semester, delving into the connection between the university and the Mount Scopus neighborhoods, formulating interesting recommendations for stakeholders.

The Urban Clinic was established this year in the Faculty of Social Sciences in cooperation with the Geography Department and the Institute for Urban and Regional Studies, and works to strengthen creative and socially aware urban leadership in Israel, including mayors, city planners, community leaders, academics, and developers. The Urban Clinic provides state-of-the-art knowledge about what works in housing, urban regeneration, and community planning, thereby ensuring that the current and next generation of urban practitioners are equipped with effective tools and skills to make our cities truly remarkable places for all. The clinic’s academic director and founder is Dr. Emily Silverman, a new faculty member in the Geography Department. In 2014, students and faculty led the Israeli delegation to the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia, and produced an elegant report on social urbanism for Israel, managed a national leadership forum on legislative principles for affordable housing, and convened a peer-forum of municipal planners examining social aspects of urban regeneration, among other projects. More information on the Urban Clinic is available in English here.

Source: The Department of Geography newsletter, Hebrew University