The Theft of the University of Sarajevo's Autonomy
by Esad Duraković
[CIP Note: Because of the outbreak of mass protests against misgovernment in the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, especially by Cantonal authorities, we are concerned to publish this important statement by our friend Professor Esad Duraković, one of the outstanding Arabic language scholars in the world. The original text appeared in the Sarajevo daily Oslobođenje (Liberation) on January 30, 2014. We recommend reading Prof. Duraković's important text Orientology, which we have posted in English here.
[CIP Napomena: Zbog izbijanja masovnih prosvjeda protiv hrđavo upravljanje u Republici Bosni i Hercegovini, posebice od strane kantonalnih vlasti, zabrinuti smo objaviti ovu važnu izjavu naš prijatelj profesor Esad Duraković, jednog od najistaknutijih znanstvenika u arapskom jeziku u svijetu.Izvorni tekst pojavio u sarajevskom dnevnom Oslobođenje, 30. siječnja 2014. Preporučujemo čitanje profesora je važan tekst Orientology, koje smo objavili na engleskom ovdje.]
I resigned from membership of the Board of Directors of the Academic Senate of the University of Sarajevo, on January 24, 2014. I am pleased to inform the public of this fact, since the University is an institution of great public importance, and the position that I held in the Academic Senate was gained with the highest number of votes.
These facts confer responsibility upon me before the academic community and the broader public. I am aware of the seriousness of my action, and of my great responsibility to the Academic Senate, the members of which chose me for the Board. I appreciate deeply such a vote of confidence, but as it turned out, predictably and finally, the way in which the Sarajevo Cantonal authorities structured the Academic Senate of the University and the arrogant attitude of the Board President appointed by the Cantonal Government assured that representatives of the academic community have no influence on decisions about the University, if they have a difference of opinion with Cantonal Government officials, and that is reality. The academic community has no means for protection of its interests.
The Government of the Sarajevo Canton appointed six of its own members to the Board, adding only four members of the university faculty and one student. Thus, the Cantonal Government controls a majority of the Board. The same official representatives established Procedural Rules for the Board ensuring that decisions by the Academic Senate reflect the particular interests of political parties. The University of Sarajevo is now under full Cantonal Government control – which means that of the Party of Democratic Action [SDA, a secular party representing Muslims – CIP note.]
In the selection of the current rector (who, incidentally, as far as I know, belongs to no party, so that he may be, in this respect, a symbol of institutional autonomy), the University resisted successfully an attack by the previous Cantonal Government on University autonomy, and on this issue the Government of Sarajevo Canton stayed in the background. But the current Cantonal Government has abolished the autonomy of the University, putting it under a party dictatorship. They do not grasp that university autonomy is one of the great achievements of the modern world; indeed, the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik is aware of this, and the Academic Senates of the Universities of Eastern Sarajevo and Banja Luka [under Serb control – CIP note] were set up with greater sensitivity to the principle of university autonomy, and only a third of their administrative board members were appointed from Cantonal Government ranks.
I believe we have reached a dramatic turning point. The public must focus its attention on the problem of political subjugation of the University of Sarajevo. This impressive University community, the significance of which the Cantonal Government is unaware, brings together 22 faculties [academic departments], three full academies, five research institutes, four associate members… So that when so complex and important a community undergoes crucial interference by a political party – observed silently by everybody – the result is a rupture of this country over nearly two decades and robbery of the future, through an 'integration' of the university that produces its disintegration and totalistic purging. Can anybody watch this without protest? Regarding the need to resist politicization of the University and the imposition of influence on behalf of the interests of a specific political party, I wrote to the Academic Senate in the letter announcing my application as a candidate for the Board – treating such a struggle as an absolute priority. I now disclose further details of the reasons for my resignation.
The University of Sarajevo Board of Directors held two excessively lengthy sessions to adopt its new Procedural Rules, and discussion took place on the method by which decisions were made in the Academic Senate. During the first session, on January 13, 2014, the Board members voted (6 to 4) that decisions may be taken by a qualified majority, according to the suggestions of the representatives of the Academic Senate, and the ballot result was undeniably recorded in the Minutes. The Academic Senate representatives intended surely that representatives of the official power could not use their decisions to establish their supremacy, but with a Board of six Cantonal Government members and five Senate delegates, the Cantonal Government is guaranteed a majority. Since the Academic Senate president disapproved such a vote, he stopped at that point and a new session was scheduled. At the second session, on January 22, 2014, the president sent back to the Steering Committee, for reconsideration, a key clause in the Rules (Article 32) and requested a new vote on something the Board had already approved. This manner of operation was considered unfair, if not illegal, and indicates what may be expected in the future from the Academic Senate,
The Board Rules therefore incorporated a procedure for decisions by a majority. Most of the Academic Senate stands with the Cantonal Government. Academic Senate representatives demanded that decisions be adopted by a two-thirds majority, or by a majority including at least two members from the ranks of the Academic Senate, to ensure that the representatives of the academic community could not be outvoted. The Cantonal Government, nevertheless, categorically rejected this demand, with only one of the official representatives demonstrating an attitude of consistency in protecting University interests that was really impressive – but in an atmosphere in which the academic community was persistently and systematically humiliated. Two Academic Senate representatives voted, unfortunately, against the interests of the Senate that had designated them as its delegates.
Thus, the Cantonal Government has twice stolen the autonomy of the University of Sarajevo, first by naming a majority of the Board members from Cantonal Government ranks, second by approving Rules by which decisions are made by a simple majority of the Board. This has laid the basis for every kind of attack on the University in general, and I am confident that they will continue with various forms of destruction of the University of Sarajevo – precisely because it remained one of the few symbols, and certainly the most important, of unity and high standards, the main generator of progress in the valuable process of integration. The destruction and deconstruction of the University is now prepared. Greedy political predators will be free to seize the assets of the University, which is always most important for them!
Academic Senate representatives face Board Rules and conditions under which they cannot influence the decisions that affect the interests of the University. The academic community, to emphasize, is degraded completely. In its efforts at the meetings of the Board, in its adoption of the requirement for a two-thirds majority, which I considered completely unjust, I perceived an utterly unfair and crude posture of the Cantonal Government toward the University. The former Cantonal |Government allowed the choice of the current rector because he did not accept legitimate choices by the Academic Senate, which deprives us of a structure for defense of the highest values of the society, embodied in the University (I have previously written about its relationship as that of a step-child, with the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia-Hercegovina, which so callously abandoned it), and reduced the area for a hopelessly-failed usefulness. It was therefore necessary to create a regulatory mechanism that would give the University of Sarajevo at least a chance for improvement.
If one understands the seriousness of the situation, the Cantonal Government may appoint a new Board, organized differently to save the University as well as the dignity of the dominant political party, above any current, short-term interest. The Cantonal Government needs to know what the University is in its whole, in its future momentum and progress, and it must agree always to specifically keep the hands of any political party away from the University. This is an absolute condition for the University to realize its full capacity, because by their nature, political parties have interests that are temporary and, in particular, are unstable, while the University is founded upon its own principles and is committed to the lofty goals of universality, stability, science, broad progress, etc. When a subjective entity (a political party) is substantially inferior and, as I saw it, intends to rule over the university, turning it into its own property, then the inferior entity achieves only a temporary and very deceptive 'benefit:' it can be compensated for a short time by careful arrangements of staff and may carry out retaliatory actions (given its frustrated sense of inferiority), and an important goal, of course, is that those who enjoy 'seniority' make gains. But the ultimate outcome of such demands is negative for all. Why this lack of vision? The Cantonal Government should serve the University, not selfish exploitation by a party. In this way, without a scientific approach, the University is forced to spread these problems throughout society. What took place in the University of Sarajevo Board was dilettante politics, and brought about a strategically bad fate.
Perhaps there is still an opportunity to show truly patriotic responsibility and maturity in the political parties. Let their approach to the University of Sarajevo change. Let us move away from verbal exercises and political diatribes. The Academic Senate may immediately do what should have been done previously. It can file a complaint, an appropriate appeal, to the judicial authorities for an interpretation of the laws of the Assembly and Government of Sarajevo Canton, dealing with this matter in accord with the existing legal framework. I believe firmly that a major role in this question may be taken by the Academic Senate and that nothing more is required.
In these circumstances, when the Senate representatives have been obstructed, I cannot accept being a mere bystander in the Academic Senate of the University of Sarajevo, as it legitimizes Board decisions obviously intended to devastate the University. The Cantonal Government appointed a majority of the Board and its nominees refused compromise stubbornly, except for one honorable Cantonal Government member. This shows a will to act so that the opinions of the Senate members cannot prevent discretionary decisions by the authorities.
I believe that all this deep conflict with the academic community has left the University compromised fatally, humiliated, and frustrated in its effects on policies involving its best interests. And so I indignantly, and with the trust of the esteemed Senate, refused any further role in the Board of the University of Sarajevo.