The University and Resistance

Classes suspended at the university of Belgrade.

Slobodanka Ast

SUN, 04 JUN 2000

Belgrade, May 27 - Yesterday, from the plateau in front of the Faculty of Philosophy, several thousand students of Belgrade University sent a message to the regime asking it to "peacefully surrender the power, its officials to resign and move out of Serbia and go to India, China or North Korea..." University students sent this message of warning also to the people whom they invited to support students and to the opposition asking it to remain united.

This large protest rally of Belgrade students and citizens was preceded by persecution of the "Resistance" members, harassment and beating up of students of the Faculty of Architecture by masked thugs, posting of "security" guards at faculty entrances and, naturally, introduction of the "hate language". For several weeks now regime officials have been alling all unlike-minded people, even students, members or sympathisers of "Resistance" names such as: "fascist phalanxes", "Madeleine Jugend", "mercenaries", "terrorists", "NATO infantry" and calling the people to "resolutely settle accounts" with them.

And then, after a wave of dissatisfaction swept through the faculties, came a DECREE. Signed and stamped by the Minister of Higher Education, Professor Ph.D. Jevrem Janjic, the decree informed rectors and faculty deans all over Serbia that they were obliged to conclude the school year within 24 hours, i.e. by Friday, May 26, 2000, conclusively! Minister's message read that by that deadline students should get professors' signatures and have their semester verified. No extension of the deadline was allowed, irrespective of the reasons, nor any classes or supplementary instruction" read the Minister's message word for word. According to this Decree students were prohibited from spending any time at faculties, except when taking exams!

This gesture of the Minister Jevrem Janjic is greatly symbolic: it coincides with the second anniversary of the adoption of the most restrictive Law on University in the history of Belgrade University, which abolished its autonomy, but also, the Decree was passed two days after the incursion of masked thugs who beat up students after the rally organised in the lecture theatre of the Faculty of Architecture.

According to professors from the University Board for the Defence of Democracy, the Minister has actually suspended the University while this act, along with the take-over and repression of the independent media, represents just another indicator that "the state of emergency and open dictatorship" are being introduced in the country.

Milan Kurepa, Member of the Academy and President of the Association of Professors and Researchers, told Minister Janjic that his gesture was befitting only the authorities in a dictatorial state and that he should, therefore, resign.

At many faculties (Electrical Engineering, Architecture and Civil-Engineering and the Faculty of Law in Belgrade) "professional security guards" whom students, without any euphemism, call "the Dean's thugs", check students' and professors' identity documents and, according to strictly controlled lists of suitable and unsuitable university members, allow them to or prevent them from entering their own faculty. The "gorillas" have a free hand to decide at their own discretion whom they will not let in.

Some faculties, like the Belgrade Faculty of Law, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, hastened to obey the Minister's order and express their support: Dean of the Faculty of Law, Oliver Antic, sent a message: "Everything is proceeding according to plan". Sc.D. Dimitrije Jankovic, Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering had somewhat more lively arguments for a sudden closing of the faculty doors: "We have completed the curriculum a bit earlier and are now planning the cleaning of pipes and repair of heaters".

However, contradictory comments could be heard from some faculties, even universities: University of Novi Sad will not obey Minister Janjic's order "there will be no suspension of classes, nor prohibition of rallies, there will be no "security" nor humiliating checking of professors' and students' identity documents. Scientific-Teaching Council of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade decided to continue its work normally, noting: "We condemn the beatings and arrests and shall protect our students..." Scientific-Teaching Council of the Faculty of Civil-Engineering also disagreed with the sudden ending of the school year demanding that an investigation be launched about the incursion of masked thugs in the technical faculties building in Bulevar Revolucije St. in Belgrade.

Fifteen professors of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts went out on strike (even before Minister's decree on the suspension of work) stating that they will keep striking: "until goons who have beaten up students are removed from faculties of Belgrade University and they and the likes of them are brought before the justice to answer for their violent behaviour". A letter of professors and assistant lecturers of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, signed by Filip David, Jovan Hristic, Nenad Prokic, Biljana Srbljanovic, Goran Markovic, Srdjan Karanovic, Milos Pavlovic, Janko Baljak, Boban Skerlic, Nikola Jeftic, Alisa Stojanovic, Predrag Bajcetic, Aleksandra Jovicevic, Radosav Djokic and Ivan Medenica stated that "there are indications that the mentioned thugs were acting under the patronage of certain political parties. As long as such a situation persists, any pedagogic work is irregular and meaningless".

Members of the Democratic Youth claimed that they had evidence that the thugs were working under the patronage of the ruling coalition: they will press charges against these persons whom they managed to photograph "red-handed".

Faculty of Electrical Engineering (ETF) is reigned by terror ever since the two-man team came to the helm of this Faculty: Dean Vlada Teodosic and the newly appointed Professor Milos Laban. Many professors have been arbitrarily expulsed from classes, others have been "removed from" projects, yet others have been thrown out of their offices, some have been harshly slandered... Is it then surprising that some 60 professors have left this once renown and perhaps our best faculty.

Some were expelled and the others left - sickened. And after all that happened, the security prevented the following "unsuitable" professors of ETF from entering the building: the former Dean Borivoj Lazic, Sc.D. Jovan Radunovic, Sc.D. Dejan Zivkovic, Sc.D. Slavoljub Marjanovic, Sc.D. Jovan Nahman, Sc.D. Milan S.Savic, Sc.D. Vladana Smiljanic-Likar, etc. Professor Lazic did not hide his indignation at the latest events: "Minister Janjic's order is without precedent in the history of this University: it is worse than the state of emergency. The decision is illegal and harmful for students. At our faculty, at which many classes have already been lost, the second semester was to last 14 weeks, until the end of June, and thus it will be five weeks shorter. In other words we shall be unable to teach some 30 percent of the teaching programme! The authorities got scared because of students' rallies and their protest so they closed down the university in a hurry! They do not care how much damage they will cause to students because they will prevent them from learning so many things. Only harebrained people can make such decisions, convinced that we can survive technologically severed from the rest of the world".

At the Faculty of Law the struggle against any kind of resistance is continuing with all means: from standard "Dean's security" which is vigilantly guarding the entrance and many offices, to special "Seselj's security".

However, the struggle against the unlike-minded people also continued with all other methods: the newly appointed professor Vojislav Seselj accused Professor Ph.D. Stevan Lilic of being "a dirty and mean plagiarist", a "thief-author" because he has "robbed a Serbian intellectual in emigration, Laza M.Kostic". Seselj attacked Professor Lilic, who is also Vice-President of the Democratic Centre, of belonging to the "fifth column" and being a "member of an extremely pro-American political party which regularly participates in all subversive tasks of the NATO infantry" emphasising that "criminal behaviour of Stevan Lilic should be mercilessly and publicly stigmatised". He explicitly remarked that "we have to be merciless with such people". Professor Lilic called Seselj's attack a "political pamphlet". In his letter to Dean Antic, Professor said that Seselj's document was a forgery for which Seselj should be thrown out of the Faculty and that Seselj himself "is an unscrupulous plagiarist of Lenin's text: What to do?" The daily "Danas" (Today) published this claim in its public debate section.

Vojislav Seselj swiftly reacted and demanded a maximum penalty for "Danas" for "the damage to his reputation". In the well-known express manner, "Danas" was fined with 570 thousand dinars! Professors of the Faculty of Law are silent for the time being: those who used to publicly comment such things have either been expelled or left of their own volition. The remaining ones unofficially told us that the atmosphere at the faculty is extremely unpleasant ever since Seselj came. When the day before yesterday law students wanted to hold a rally, they found the lecture theatre locked. A hundred of them held a protest rally out in the open. The message was brief: "They will not stop us".

Entrefilet Professors Defending the "Resistance"

The Association of Professors and Researchers and the Association for the Defence of Democracy most decisively and strongly condemn all forms of state violence, starting from verbal and legal to the physical. We firstly condemn and reject all irresponsible and dangerous labelling and accusations with words by which members of the "resistance" movement are made equal with the most dangerous criminals and terrorists. Professors and researchers stand up for members of this movement which has become the object of most brutal persecution, being of the opinion that its activity constitutes as noble, but resolute, opposition to the destruction of the society which is a consequence of ten-year policy of the existing regime. We wonder who are fascists in all this. Are those the ones who with nonviolent means, brains and irony are fighting for the salvation of Serbia or the uniformed or ununiformed, masked or unmasked thugs who do it with truncheons and sticks?

Original article