LAW FACULTY UNDER ATTACK
The Inexorable Fate of Anti-Intellectualism
The new University Act is a link in a whole string
of war campaigns against the centres of the institutions of culture in
Serbia, another proof that anti-intellectualism is the inexorable fate
of these parts. This is where we have to face a major encumbrance of our
tradition which will be borne as a cross by our intellectuals for a long
time yet. It is the intellectual ostracism - mistrust and the worst possible
treatment the Serbs manifest towards the nation's greatest minds. Is it
not true that Vuk Karadzic', Svetozar Markovic', Slobodan Jovanovic', Milos
Crnjanski and numerous other great men spent the major part of their lives
abroad, since it turned out that it was easier to obtain recognition and
glory in the world, then in their own country. Does it not appear that
the predicament of Vuk Karadzic' was carried over to Mihailo Duric' and
dozens of thousands of experts who, rejected by Serbia, left it to find
affirmation elsewhere in the world? That accounts for the topicality of
the words written by Vuk Karadzic' way back in 1832: »Bearing in
mind that Miloje Djak - who in early 1825, rose the Smederevo district
against (Prince) Milos - could read and write a little, the prevailing
view at Milos's court at that time (and perhaps even now) was that schools
were definitely not required since the learned people rebelled against
their government. Milosav Lapovac even proposed puffing to death of all
who could read and write(< (Karadzic', 1968: 243-244). After World War
II this ostracism was »supplemented« with Bolshevik anti-intellectualism
which treated the party as the collective intellectual and generated fear,
resentment and even hatred of autonomous intellectuals. Moreover, the Yugoslav
power holders brought Stalin's tactics towards the intellectuals (»Make
them part of a mass to humiliate them«) to absurd. This made a well-known
aphorist of the 1 970s, Vladimir Bulatovic' Vib note:
»Very soon this country will have more doctors of sciences than literate people«.
Thus an army of petty political intelligence of minions was formed. Finally, in the past decade the worst befell us: treason and self-compromising of intellectuals whose political engagement supplied the political passions and national conflicts with moral and intellectual authority. The surge of this anti-intellectualism over the past decade, drove into the world hundreds of thousands of young and educated people, including top experts and artists who are now recognized as such far from their country. In their wake they left an emptiness which is most often filled by mediocre substitutes or spiritual Pygmies. Many people tend to see the reasons for this national Golgotha and political downfall of Serbia during the past decade precisely in this exodus and ostracism of its wisest and most vital forces.
The subjugation of the University
Manifest forms of anti-intellectualism in present-day
Serbia are quite different: they range from an enormous devaluation of
intellectual work and services to occasional attacks of the centres of
political power against the autonomous intelligentsia and the temples of
culture. The new University Act is the crown of this anti-intellectualism.
Actually, it is an act which works against the university since it is aimed
at eradicating the very idea of the university and annihilating its being.
The hitherto history of the Serbian university legislation, starting from
the establishment of the University of Belgrade in 1905, does not
register a single university act with so many inadmissible procedural and
substantial flaws, or so numerous restrictive and repressive provisions
(Popovic', 1998). The Act was prepared in secrecy without the knowledge
or cooperation of relevant scientific-research and educational institutions
in Serbia, ignoring and affronting both the Serbian University tradition
and internationally accepted standards of academic autonomy. Scientific
institutions of highest level and repute in Serbia (the Serbian Academy
of Sciences and Arts, the University of Belgrade, etc.) were not given
the opportunity to state their views on the proposed legislation. Moreover,
their suggestion to withdraw the text, still in the form of the proposal,
from the legal procedure was dismissed.
Despite serious objections and criticism on the part of most prominent institutions and individuals in the country, and regardless of the unsustainable legitimacy basis and professionally inferior outcome as well as the deficiencies of formal legal and processual nature, the University Act entered into force on June 4, 1998, as yet another in a series of acts imposed by an unwise authority. The Act replaces the university autonomy with »enforced management«, freedom with submission and humility, creativeness with political narrowness (Ivosevic', 1998; Vujacic', 1998).
The creators and apologists of the new University Act were not prepared to openly trample on the generally accepted standards of the university's autonomy and freedom. Therefore, they set out to prove that the Act had: 1) merely changed the regime of university management, without infringing upon the autonomy of high education or interfering with the freedom of scientific work and the regime of studies; 2) enabled state control of the university by introducing certain prerogatives, but also responsibilities of the state towards the university, and 3) created the conditions to depoliticize the university, i.e. banish from it all parties and politics (Markovic', Bojic' and Seselj, 1998; Kalajic', 1998).
These arguments are an expression of specific cynicism and hypocrisy. The participation of professors and associates in managing the university and faculties was not merely limited, but it was cancelled altogether. Instead of the so-called state control and depoliticization of the university, we saw it submitted to the current authorities. This is expressly anticipated by Article 123 of this Act which stipulates that the rectors and the deans are appointed and relieved by the founder, that is the Government. If the rectors and the deans are appointed by the Government without the employees having any say in the matter, and primarily in line with political criteria, or criteria of complete loyalty to the current authorities, and if the deans »have a hold<( over the professors and associates - it is quite clear that the modern principle of the university autonomy and freedom is replaced by the premodern principles of vassals and their lords. Namely, according to this Act the professors and associates are vassals to the dean, the deans and rectors are vassals to the government, i.e. the ruling party which, ultimately, appears as the true lord of the university. However, should the current authorities change, there is no doubt that the new team would replace the deans and rectors appointed by the previous government by others more suitable for their purposes. This widely opens the door to politics, political autocracy and scheming at the university (Basta, 1998:1; Batakovic', 1998:139-144).
Created as a normative result of an authoritarian regime, the University Act paradigmatically uncovers how a legal act has been made a tool in securing the authoritarian demands of a political reality. It suffers from the diseases typical of the Serbian legislature and its products - starting from a disproportion between the liberal-democratic form and authoritarian-repressive contents. Namely, the University Act has a manifest form of liberal order of the university, which expresses the general (and ideological) needs, although not of the political reality. At the same time, it includes the hidden forms of repression which reflect the political reality, that is the need to discipline and marginalize the university. Thus, we come into a situation wherein we have this Act as a simulated norm creating a semblance of rights and the truth of a distorted (legal) reality.
Therefore, it is an inferior, repressive and regressive legal act which, by abolishing the last guarantees of academic freedoms and autonomy of science, negates the university as a place for free research, education and creative work. The adoption and enforcement of this fatal Act are a specific kind of attack on universities in Serbia and mark their most profound and largest downfall. With the exception of the German regime of 1 930s no European government of the 20-th century has ever manifested so much mistrust of the university cadre and their ability to care for the university's interest in the process of self-administration, as we see expressed by this Act (cf. also articles by Cedomir Cupic', Zagorka Gohibovic' and Goran Milicevic' in: Sta se zhiva na univerzitetu, 1998). Its enforcement marks the beginning of annihilation of the very idea and purpose of the university, leaving it merely its name and form.
Exile of professors from the Faculty of Law
On May 20, 1998 the Educational and Scientific
Council of the Faculty of Law met to discuss the proposed University Act.
On that occasion the Council considered the following questions: Did the
government act in line with democratic standards when it decided to prepare
a text of this kind without consulting the university or any professional
organization? Was the proposed abolishment of the university autonomy in
the sphere of management and election of professors and associates in conformity
with the basic achievements of civilization the academic communities in
modern societies rest upon? Did the new legal solutions provide for the
»banishing of politics from the university" or conversely created
a wide space for political action and persecution of professors and associates'?
Were the proposed provisions of the University Act constituional and in
contravention with international standards? Was the regime of studies sharpened
in the right way'? Would this improve or rather worsen the material position
of the University (Popovic', 1998: 57)'?
Having analyzed the legislative history of universities in Serbia since 1905, the Council concluded that over the past 93 years no regime had ever resorted to a solution whereby the founder should undertake the management function and on that basis appoint rectors and deans, and even professors and associates, without regard to any criteria and invoking its unlimited discretionary authorities. Even when the minister of education had the authority to appoint the dean, which is what happened at the time of the country's occupation, he did that upon the proposal of the faculty. The Council found that the Act ran contrary to the Serbian university tradition and the high, internationally accepted standards of academic autonomy. »The idea that the founder of the university, i.e. faculty, should manage these institutions as if these were his firms, was alien to all governments - from democratic ones during the golden age of parliamentarism in the Kingdom of Serbia, through the anti-popular, occupational and socialist ones in the post-war period« (Popovic', 1998: 61).
Three days after the adoption of the University Act in the national Assembly of Serbia, on May 29, 1998 the Scientific and Educational Council of the Faculty of Law stated its view about the text of the enacted legislation and agreed on conclusions subsequently signed by 52 professors and associates (out of the total teaching staff of 96): 1) The Council repeated its belief that the new University Act had dealt a hard blow to the university autonomy by abolishing it altogether in the vital spheres of election of professors and associates and managing the faculties and the University; 2) Most Council members believed that the new legal solutions created ample space for interference of politics in the life of the faculties and the University; 3) They noted that it is essentially a moral issue for all concerned to individually define their attitudes towards the possibly offered functions, and decide whether they would accept to continue working at the university under such conditions; the Council invited their colleagues appointed to functions in management bodies (deans, vice-deans, members of the Managing and Supervisory boards) not to accept the appointments unless they have previously obtained the majority support of professors and associates at a secret ballot. Failing that, the professors and associates would not be able to cooperate with them. As for the election of professors and associates the future dean is expected to adhere to the university standards - with respect to the procedure as well as election criteria - which had thus far been applied at the Faculty and the University; 4) The Faculty must not under any circumstances concede to the creation of a climate of persecution in it or at the University. The highest moral imperative for any member of the Council must be actively to resist all pressures for purges among colleagues of different minds, through the authorities vested in the dean. In addition, it would be necessary to preserve the high criteria the Faculty applied for the admission of professors and associates to the faculty and for promotion to higher positions; 5) The Council condemned the entirely unnecessary and brutal intervention of the police against the students and professors who protested over the adoption of the Act on the day it was voted in, as well as later; 6) The Council indicated that it was the task of the University to apply all legal and legitimate means to oppose the solutions which not only undermined the autonomy of the University but were, moreover, contrary to the Constitution and the undertaken international obligations (»Zakljucci...«, 1998: 235-236).
At this same session a proposal was made that the Council should adopt a conclusion stating that »in order to defend the university autonomy and the dignity of the Faculty the professors and associates of the Faculty of Law on Belgrade consider it a demand of their professional conscience and their ethical duty to discontinue their work due to the monstrous and disastrous solutions of the new University Act((. The motion failed to obtain majority support - with 22 votes in favour, 9 against and 18 abstained (»Zakljucci...«, 1998: 235).
As soon as the University Act entered into force on June 4, 1998, sixteen professors of the Faculty of Law signed a statement' refusing to conclude employment contracts anticipated by Article 165 of the Act. After that, the signers of this statement launched an initiative to the Constitutional Court to examine the compliance of certain provisions of the University Act with the Constitution and the law.2
8 The body which conducted disciplinary proceedings against Professor Vesna Rakic-Vodinelic took a decision to terminate her employment on November 12, 1998. Assistant Goran Svilanovic received his discharge papers on December 26, 1998.
9 The list of professors of this Faculty who have been persecuted and removed from the Faculty from the day of its establishment to this date is rather long: 1) Lyceum and High School #Law (1941 - 1905): Dimitrije Matic, Kosta Cukic and Djordje Ceric (1851), Vladimfr Jovanovic (1864), Stojan Veljkovic', Gligorije Gesic', Djordje Pavlovic' (1871), Milovan Milovanovic', repeatedly, Milenko Vesnic' (1899). 2) Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade (1905-1941): Mihailo Ilic', Bozidar V Markovic', Dragoljub Jovanovic'. 3) Faculty of Law during occupation (1941-1945): Djordje Tasic, Mihailo Ilic', Ilija Przic', Milos Radojkovic', Milan Zijovic', Toma Zivanovic, Ljubomir Dukanac Dragas Denkovic', Bozidar S. Markovic', Tihomir Vasiljevic', Nikola Konstadinovi~ Jovan Djordjevic', Nikola Stjepanovic', Branislav Nedebkovic', Dusan Doncevic', Borislav Blagojevic 4) Faculty ~ Law, University of Belgrade (1946-2000): (A) Banished as 'enemies of the people Slobodan Jovanovic', Zivojin Peric', Bozidar S. Markovic', Dragoljub Jovanovic', Lazar Markovi~ Aleksandar Solovjev, Milan Vladisavljevi6, Djordje Mirkovic', Milivoje Markovic', Milan Zi~~ovi~c (B) Banished as »morally and politically unsuitable(< Mihailo Djuric', Andrija Gam~ Ruzica Guzina, Stevan Vracar, Stevan Djordjevic', Branislava Joji&, Danilo Basta, Vojislav Ko',tumca Kosta Cavos~i, Aleksandar Stojanovic'. (C) Banishment of the »disobeying(< (1998).
13 Professor Kosta Cavoski and professor Danilo Basta remained firm in their decision to continue boycotting the instructions and in that way fight for the reestablishment to the Faculty of their dismissed colleagues and against new expulsions.
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