Elmedin Konakovic and Rifat Skrijelj
By: Armin Aljovic
The professors of the University in Sarajevo issued an appeal to the academic community, the public and future government in Sarajevo, urging them to act fast in order to save the country's biggest university.
The public appeal published last Friday was signed by 31 professors. They warn about the importance of the autonomy of the university, they underline the hazard of too big centralization of the University in Sarajevo, they are aggrieved at the neglect of scientific research, they request continued renewal of the personnel so as to avoid its collapse... The professors warned: 'Any further erosion of the University caused by loss of its autonomy, as well as the loss of subjectivity of its organizational units, will represent an irreparable damage to the entire social community'.
Then the politics spoke. The university rector Rifat Skrijelj (SDA) has not stood by their side! He has perceived the appeal as a call to his toppling and he threatened to inform those in charge. Although it has been known for some time, to save his position, Skrijelj has publicly revealed the position of his political party: 'Professor don't have the right to speak'. Therefore, formally and legally Skrijelj has confirmed that the Sarajevo University is probably the only one in the world in which professors' don't have the freedom of speech.
Speaking for Dnevni Avaz last Saturday, professor Salih Foco warned that the University in Sarajevo is likely to become a social university with only those students who can't study anywhere else and with professors as common lecturers – if it continues with its current politics.
- The University in Sarajevo is the biggest development investment in BiH... The cantonal government has decided to put the investment under political control, to subject professors to the administrative and technical tasks, which opposes the essence of the university. This is our salvation appeal, said Foco.
Professor Marinko Pejic said that 'there's no autonomy, the politics is above all'.
One of the signatories of the appeal, professor Asim Mujkic told Oslobodjenje about systematic ignoring of the academic community. 'I'm afraid that the goal is to reduce or destroy its spirit, and its spirit is in research, in order to reduce it to this bureaucratic dimension'.
Rector Skrijelj responded to the appeal and the professors' explanations as follows: 'I will not speak to the media, instead I will forward the documents to the responsible institutions!'
The bold threat to the signatories of the appeal for the freedom and prosperity of the University comes from the person who is expected to show an utmost understanding for academic liberties and freedom of thought in general – the first person of the academic community.
Contrary to the rector's probable intention, his public reaction confirms the tragic situation the university is in. His behavior is one of the strongest arguments in favor of the appeal.
The roles of the chairman of the Cantonal Assembly, Elmedin Konakovic (People and Justice), and vice-chairmen Danijela Kristic (People and Justice) and Vibor Handzic (Nasa Stranka) are also ambiguous and confusing. During his visit with the rector last Friday, Konakovic praised some of rector's actions, including the University shifting to treasury operations. Apparently, there was no mention of the professors' appeal. 'There are faculties that could go commercial, which only confirms that the treasury operations are a good thing, as well as the fact that salaries will be stable'. Konakovic's statement contradicts the statements of his coalition partners SDP and DF.
Earlier this week, Damir Masic of SDP announced changes to the Law on tertiary education after the assembly majority will have been established: 'We request the education minister at the Cantonal government Sarajevo (Elvir Kazazovic) who is in a technical mandate, as well as the University rector (Rifat Skrijelj) to refrain from undertaking any hasty actions at the University as it is evident that we will have a new parliamentary majority that will not have the same perception of the University as the existing government has had', said Masic.
The DF representative at the Cantonal assembly Sarajevo Senad Hasanovic told Patria that once the government is established, the DF will be requesting an urgent depoliticization of the University 'as the university cannot function under political pressure'.
In their analysis published last Wednesday in which they write about SDA's political pressure on the Sarajevo University, the IFIMES from Ljubljana points out: 'The shift to treasury operating has also endangered autonomous working of the lead tertiary and scientific institution in BiH'. The IFIMES follows events in the Western Balkans and has a special advisory status with the UN.
While professor Foco refers to the University as the biggest development investment which mustn't become a victim of the politics, Konakovic reduces the university to the marketplace which can bring money.
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