Rectors and academics come and go – and so they should, in any university. The important thing is that a strong and sturdy university remains, fit for current purposes and with the autonomy and academic freedom to speak Truth to Power and provide its students with the knowledge, skills and understanding they will need to play a leading role in the future of their country.
EHU was founded with that determination for freedom and autonomy back in Minsk in 1992, and it preserves it today in spite of ill-intentioned attacks. Please note: It does not take courage to ‘speak out’ at EHU, a place founded for Academic Freedom and freedom of speech. Nothing will happen to the 14 out of 51 members of Senate who voted to call for resignations. A Senate vote at EHU is in a very safe and privileged space. It may not be so easy for such a vote to take place in a Belarusian university today and that is why EHU matters. People care about the future of EHU because we are still trying to deal in absolutes, in freedom, truth, the right to teach and learn in the language of one’s choice, the right of free assembly. In the world of Belarusian Universities and media, it seems EHU is still worth attacking.
What are the real problems facing EHU ? They are financial. Universities cost a lot of money, around 65 % of it on salaries. EHU brought nothing with it out of Belarus and it has depended on the huge generosity of others for the last 10 years. That support has come first from the United States and Lithuania, then from the European Union and Nordic countries as well, and we continue to need the help of our colleagues abroad for some years yet. But they, reasonably enough, expect us to make efforts ourselves to become more financially sustainable. Their money is not limitless, they have many other problems to deal with and ten years is a long time. It is the task of the University Management, of which the Senate should be a very important part, to work together to make the University pay its way as far as it can, to demonstrate progress and persuade donors to continue their support by showing them what EHU is achieving, making them proud of our successes. No one wants to spend their money on supporting a failure. Our 14 colleagues who led the Senate vote understand this very well. They have a choice: they can destroy donors’ confidence by talking about unfounded allegations of mis-management and failure or they can get down to the serious task of building the best university we can create for our brave, able and talented students from Belarus.
Acting Chair, Governing Board