The security units in academic institutions in Israel are responsible for the wellbeing and security of all persons on the campus: employees, students, and visitors. Among other functions, personnel in the security units are responsible for protecting the security and wellbeing of those who enter the academic institution and for maintaining public order in the institution in normal times and in emergencies.

The work of security units derive- their authority from two sources. In the area of preventing violence and terror incidents, the authority is granted by the Isael Police and may be regarded as having a security character. In the area of protecting public order and the sense of security for students and employees, the authority is granted by the academic institution and may be regarded as having the character of providing a service.

This dual authority creates obvious tensions in the work of the security units and security guards in their encounters with students, employees, and visitors to the institution. These tensions are heightened by the increasingly diverse character of campuses in Israel due to the representation of social and cultural groups, including minorities, among students and employees.

In this reality, the security units face a substantial challenge: how should they perform their tasks and contain this complexity, particularly in emergencies – whether these are events on campus or elsewhere? Meeting this challenge requires a system of principles and tools that can help the units cope with changing circumstances, reduce inherent tension, and maintain normal relations between security personnel and everyone on campus, in routine times and during emergencies.

Coping with this complexity is essential not only during emergencies, which inherently accentuate the tensions in the functions of campus security personnel, but also in routine times. Awareness of the sensitivity needed when working in a diverse environment, providing service without bias, and practicing principles and tools during routine times help to establish relations of trust between the security unit and its personnel, students, and faculty in the institution. The more stable these relations of trust, the better the chance that the security unit will be successful in meeting the tests it faces during emergencies.

This document aims to offer an analysis of the complex relations between security personnel, students, and employees in a diverse society. It also presents recommendations intended to reduce the complexity and facilitate the response to this challenge on both the organizational and the personal/professional level.

This document is intended for the management echelon in academic institutions, the directors of security units, and security personnel in the various functions in the institution: shift managers, guards, and security office managers.

This document includes:

  1. A review and analysis of the inherent tensions: the profile of relations between institutional security personnel and students from diverse social groups, including discussion of the tensions and challenges this encounter raises
  2. Recommended actions: ways to reduce tension and strengthen the service dimension of the contacts between security personnel and diverse populations:

Ÿ      On the organizational level: recommendations for changes at the level of the management of the academic institution in general, and the management of the campus security system, in particular

Ÿ      On the grassroots level: recommendations for security personnel as they cope with the challenges of working in a diverse environment on an everyday basis


  1. Review and Analysis of Inherent Tensions

1.1     Tension between Service and Security Approaches

Academic institutions in Israel, like those in other democratic countries, are key arenas for research, study, and academic and student life. The academic arena must facilitate and encourage the principles of freedom of expression, academic freedom, tolerance, and openness to different positions and ideas.

According to the service approach, the security unit in the institution is responsible for providing a sense of security on campus in order to allow those present on campus to express different ideas in public. In this context, the function of the security unit is to mediate to the public the rules and values of the institution, welcome all who enter the institution without prejudice, and provide respectful, pleasant, and egalitarian service to everyone.

An inherent tension exists between the service approach and the security doctrine of the unit. The security approach assumes that there is always a risk of injury to the life and security of employees and students in the institution; the function of the unit is to prevent the actualization of this risk. This approach, which forms the underlying doctrine of all security bodies by their nature, is both heightened and influenced in Israel by the complex security situation. Accordingly, in its function as the body responsible for security, the security unit is charged with acting to prevent the entry of threatening elements to the campus. To meet this task, security personnel are required to identify suspicious signs and locate individuals liable to damage the security of those present on campus. The tension between these two approaches creates a challenge for the security unit, and this challenge is amplified the more diverse the population of those present on campus, including visitors. This is particularly true during emergencies, but it also applies during routine, calm periods .

The inherent tension between the security approach and the service approach is heightened further as campuses in Israel become more diverse and more accessible to students and faculty from different cultural and social groups – a process that is accompanied by growing social awareness of the importance of diversity and egalitarian treatment of all. The declarative policy of academic institutions incudes a commitment to diversity, containment, and inclusiveness. This requires the security unit to provide a service that is not only pleasant and egalitarian, but also culturally sensitive and adapted.

This inherent tension is more prominent the more that the faculty and student bodies also include members of minority groups – such as people of Ethiopian origin and Arabs – whose relations with the majority include some dimension of conflict and whose encounters with security personnel outside the academic campus are often negative.

1.2    Tension between Professional Identity and Personal Identity

Campus security systems include personnel in various positions. Like those who come to the campus, the personnel also belong to different social and cultural groups in Israel: Jews (the large majority), Druze, and Muslims; residents of the center and the periphery; new immigrants and natives; men and women; Ashkenazim and Mizrahim. What they share in common is the requirement that they must have completed military service; indeed, most of the personnel in the security unit completed their military service not long before they were trained for their position. The professional identity of security guards is influenced directly by their military service, and in many cases, they acquired the main professional experience during this service. In addition, security personnel receive professional training for their function in the academic institution. They are required to work professionally, without prejudice or discrimination. However, their personal identity, their familiarity or lack of familiarity with different social groups, and the inherent tensions and rifts in Israeli society are all left outside the campus gate once they arrive at work. For example, a secular Jewish guard who is unfamiliar with the cultural codes of a religious Jewish woman student may address her in a way that she considers offensive; a Jewish woman guard unaware of the prior experiences and interactions of an Arab male student with security personnel may relate to him in a manner that provokes antagonism and a sense of discrimination or even humiliation. The tension such situations may engender becomes a full-fledged crisis during periods when serious events are occurring off campus, such as demonstrations of a social or national character. During such periods, the guards must refrain from acting on the basis of their personal or national identity or attitudes and must act as professionals. However, they do not always have the tools to do this. At the same time, those who enter the campus also regard the guards through the prism of their own personal, cultural, and national identity, and this may be manifested in the interaction between the two sides – an encounter that carries the potential for conflict and is particularly volatile and dangerous during emergencies.

1.3    Work under Pressure versus the Responsibility and Commitment to Provide Optimum and Egalitarian Service

This tension, perhaps unlike the first two, affects anyone whose function is to provide a service to citizens and residents. The service-based approach and the demand for patience, tolerance, and cultural sensitivity on the part of security personnel in academic institutions faces a test, particularly during periods of pressure, such as a large number of people waiting to enter the academic institution or special and unusual events on campus. People who enter the campus expect the guards to be polite, patient, and often flexible regarding the rules in special personal circumstances. For example, a woman student who arrives on campus with a large bag containing numerous items ahead of a weekend vacation expects that the guards will recognize her and not delay her by searching her bag, particularly when there is a long line at the entrance gate. The security guards, meanwhile, are committed to the procedures, including the requirement to inspect large bags, and do not always remember or recognize the large number of students who enter the campus. Pressure encourages them to adhere even more firmly to the procedures. The potential for conflict in this situation may be exacerbated if the student belongs to a minority group; she may interpret the strict observance of the procedures as deliberate harassment due to her national or group identity. Those who enter the campus feel that their expectations are obvious and legitimate, but they fail to take into account the pressure facing the guards and their commitment to the procedures. For their parts, the guards sometimes feel that they are “invisible” to those who enter the campus. They feel that students and employees are unaware of the responsibility they bear by virtue of their function and are not willing to show tolerance and understanding toward them. In extreme cases, guards face disrespectful and patronizing comments toward themselves and their position.


Key points:

Ÿ      The national rift between Jews and Arabs is the deepest rift in Israeli society, since it relates to the Jewish-democratic identity of the state and to the serious Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According, the two tensions – that between service and security and the tension of identities – are the most challenging aspects during periods of crisis and stress.

Ÿ      The optimum response to the three tensions presented requires a recognition that these are not independent but systemically interconnected.

Ÿ      The reality is not dichotomic. Naturally, service providers (in this instance – security personnel) bear most of the responsibility, but the steps taken should encourage change that influences everyone and enhances the trust, effectiveness, and legitimacy of the security system among everyone on campus, and particularly among students and professional staff.

We will now present tools for addressing these challenges.


  1. Recommended Actions

In this section we will present recommendations for optimizing the response to the challenges that face the campus security system in a diverse environment. These recommendations are intended for three functions in the organization: the management of the academic institution, the security system as a unit on campus, and the guards. Some of the recommendations for each of these functions apply during routine times while others are appropriate during emergencies.

2.1    Recommendations for the Institution Management

In routine times:

The management of the academic institution is responsible for defining the values of the institution and bringing these to the attention of all employees and students. An academic institution that chooses the values of diversity, containment, and inclusiveness as guiding and fundamental values is responsible for making these values accessible to everyone of campus – faculty and students. In light of the impact of these values on the solution of the tensions discussed above, it is important that the management of the institution act to enhance their visibility. Accordingly, during routine times it is recommended that the management of the institution take the following steps:

–      Disseminate the values of diversity and containment as part of the institution’s vision through its website and additional online platforms.

–      Visually promote visibility of inclusive language across the campus by means of, for example, as posters in various languages throughout the campus.

–      Provide training for professional staff in population diversity in order to raise awareness of the issue and create a common language for all staff and students.

–      Establish a joint forum including representatives of the management of the academic institution, the security unit, and student to optimize the response to challenges that arise during routine times and preparing responses to emergencies.

During emergencies:

–      Convey a general message to the organization’s employees and the student community in different languages, including cultural adaptation (Appendixes 1 and 2).

–      Convening a meeting of the forum including the management of the academic institution, the security unit, and students and take coordinated action after evaluating the situation.


2.2   Recommendation for the Security Unit

During routine times:

  1. Professional training: the training of security personnel should include a section discussing security services in a diverse and multicultural environment, and particularly in a Jewish-Arab environment. This should include the provision of tools for intercultural communication and a familiarization with the different social and cultural groups that study on campus. This training will reinforce the service-oriented toolbox of security personnel and help them cope with the challenges of their work and resolve the tension between the security and service dimensions of their function. In addition, the conditions of employing guards should be revised and the job definition amended to include aspects of multicultural sensitivity (including as part of the job requirements).
  2. Refresher workshops for personnel: These workshops will help deepen and reinforce the ability to cope effectively with the challenges discussed at the beginning of this document, such as the tension between the service and security approaches and the tension between personal and professional identity. As part of this process, the unit managers should emphasize the organization’s message concerning the importance of enhancing the sense of belonging to the institution among students and the function of the security unit in this context.
  3. Student coordinators from minority groups, particularly Arab students, should be empowered to serve as monitors for contacts with the security unit, serving as an address for security-related issues on campus.
  4. Refreshing the security personnel’s knowledge concerning the civil rights of all students on campus, including the right to protest, within the framework of ongoing training activities in the security unit.
  5. Convening a meeting during the orientation period before the beginning of the academic year between the security personnel and students from minority groups. The meeting will focus on the functions of the campus security unit including cultural adaptation to meet the students’ needs. The meeting will help reduce suspicion and encourage trust toward the security system and its personnel.

Regarding Arab students in the institution, the following actions are also recommended:

  1. Ensuring access to information about the security system and its various functions among students, in Hebrew and Arabic.
  2. Establishing a joint working group with Arab students to identify their unique needs, in order to improve the service they receive.
  3. Ensuring access to bilingual information about the process for mediating complaints by students on issues concerning the security system.
  4. Informing students of the possibility to complain about unfair, improper, or humiliating conduct by the security unit.

During emergencies:

  1. The security unit and its personnel are responsible for setting a personal example that conveys the policy of the academic institution, including rejection of offensive and racist statements, as well as the message of the importance of an egalitarian approach to all and respect for human dignity.
  2. If offensive, inciting or racist remarks are made toward security personnel, students, or faculty members, this must be reported immediately to the managers of the relevant unit in order to ensure a rapid response and prevent possible escalation.
  3. During periods of national tension, political discussion should be left outside the workplace of security personnel to prevent an escalation in the tension between their personal and professional identity and to enable them to perform their work without prejudice while maintaining calm, respect, and a sense of security for everyone on campus. Students have every right to discuss politics and express political opinions, within the confines of the law.
  4. Immediately when a crisis erupts, security personnel should be reminded of the functions of the security unit as distinct from the functions of the police and other security forces, to prevent a lack of clarity concerning the security unit’s functions and in order to prevent a tendency to assume the roles of other bodies.
  5. Regarding comments in the social media: the management echelon of the institution should emphasize that offensive, aggressive or insensitive comments are contrary to the organization’s ethical code and vision. Accordingly, the management asks its employees to refrain from making such comments and from offending their Jewish or Arab colleagues. In the case of comments that border on incitement or racism, it is recommended that the management clarify to the employees that such comments are illegal under Israeli law and have a criminal character, with all this implies.
  6. It is very important to convey the message to all the personnel in the security unit that if they face distress, fear or insecurity due to the situation or to offensive treatment, they are invited to turn to their managers and share their feelings and distress, without fear of judgment, criticism or any harm to their employment. In such situations, the managers must enable the workers to feel a sense of wellbeing and belonging, regardless of their identity and positions.
  7. It is recommended that the security unit convene with the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion provide a broad perspective on the events.
  8. It is recommended that the security unit be accompanied by a professional from the therapeutic professions who has expertise in coping with emergencies, crises, and trauma.



Appendix 1: Proposal for a General Message to All Employees of the Academic Institution during Emergencies

Israeli society is currently facing a difficult and tense reality. We are all worried by the political escalation and by violence, and aware of the tensions and fears among employees – Jewish and Arab alike.

The employees in the organization – Jews and Arabs – are part of Israeli society. We believe in diversity and in a shared life in the workplace and beyond.

We are members of an organization that believes in human dignity, equality, and the right to personal, cultural, and national identity and that respects the worldviews of all employees. We urge everyone, regardless of their origin, to respect this belief for the sake of normal and respectful working relations between the different populations.

At this time, in particular, we urge employees to refrain from making offensive, inciting or racist statements in the workplace and in the social media. This will help us to maintain our delicate and unique character and the relations between Jewish and Arab workers.

Anyone who feels distress, concern or fear due to the situation or due to offensive actions by others is invited to contact their line manager or the human resources manager and to share their feelings, without fear of criticism, judgment or damage to their employment. It is our job to do everything to moderate difficult feelings and to help those who need help.



Appendix 2: Proposed General Message to Students in the Academic Institution during Emergencies

Israeli society is currently facing a difficult and tense reality. We are all worried by the political escalation and by violence, and aware of the tensions and fears among employees – Jewish and Arab alike.

All our students – Jews and Arabs alike– are part of Israeli society. We believe in diversity and in a shared life in the workplace and beyond.

We are members of an organization that believes in human dignity, equality, and the right to personal, cultural, and national identity and that respects the worldviews of each and every student. We urge everyone, regardless of their origin, to respect this belief to build trust and respect between the different populations.

The academic institution must allow freedom of expression and academic freedom. At the same time, and particularly in the current times, we urge you, the students, to refrain from making offensive, inciting or racist statements on campus and on social media. This will help us to maintain our delicate and unique character and the relations between everyone on campus.

Students who feel distress, concern or fear due to the situation or due to offensive actions by others are invited to contact any of the following: the security unit, the Dean of Students, or any member of faculty they trust, to share their feelings, and request assistance. It is our job to do everything to moderate difficult feelings and, when necessary, help solve the problem and restore the sense of personal security.

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Silence is Golden