About 60 members of academia and civil society gathered at the British Academy in London to hear EHU students, faculty, and supporters speak about “Academia on the Edge: The Case of the European Humanities University”. The discussion and reception were held as a celebration of the 20th anniversary of EHU's founding.
The event, organized jointly with the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA), featured welcome remarks by Sir Adam Roberts, president of the British Academy, EHU Governing Board Member and Chair of CARA Anne Lonsdale, CBE, and Member of the Board of Friends of EHU Laura Dzelzyte. EHU’s Founding Rector Dr Anatoli Mikhailov greeted the audience by video.
EHU faculty members and students spoke about their decision to come to EHU, what EHU has meant to them, and their future plans and goals.
“I have a dream of becoming a human rights defender. I came to EHU with this idea. When you see human rights violations in Belarus you get extremely involved and start to care about your own rights and other people’s rights. When I graduate I plan to come back to Belarus to be a defender,” said Maryia Sliaptsova, a second-year law student.
“At EHU, my final paper was about the possibilities of development of local self-government in Belarus. I am interested in developing a local self-government project for Belarus,” said Karyna Bobryk, an alumna of EHU’s undergraduate law program and currently a graduate law student.
Students shared their experiences in a discussion moderated by EHU’s Vice-Rector for Development and Communications Dr Darius Udrys. They noted that even the recent experience of being detained by police due to their involvement in EHU’s election observation project has not deterred them.
“The fact that we were detained means that election observation is extremely important in Belarus,” said Sliaptsova. “I believe that one day Belarus will be democratic. Students of EHU and participants of election observation project are making small steps towards those events.”
Dr Pavel Tereshkovich, head of EHU's History Department, shared his personal story of discovering social anthropology as a young scholar, introducing the discipline in Belarus, and later being forced to choose between working with EHU and Belarusian State University.
“EHU is not only an institution that provides European-style education to students, but is also a shelter for academia members who have lost their positions,” said Tereshkovich.
Remarks by students and faculty were met warmly by the audience.
“The existence of EHU in exile is a symbol that there is still hope,” said Brian Bennett, Former Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Belarus.
“Students’ stories are inspiring. Nothing like this can operate without lots of brave individuals taking brave decisions. It is an obligation that we support you,” said Dr Paul Flather, Secretary–General of the Europaeum, an association of leading European Universities, and Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford.
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