Student protest Zagreb Croatia
21 September 2016
Photo: Jurica Galoic/Pixsell
A couple of hundred university students at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (a.k.a. Faculty of Philosophy) of the University of Zagreb have thrown their rioting and protesting weight against the current Dean Vlatko Previsic. They insist he must resign or be forced into retirement as he turns 71 in few months. They claim among other things lack of transparency and autocratic and some weak decision-making in his job. They are adamant that the proposed merger/cooperation between their Faculty and the Catholic Faculty of Theology will not go ahead. The protest grew more vicious by the minute, so to speak, and had occupied a great deal of media space and as politically left-minded persons declare their support for the runaway student protests, true causes to protest are lost or become blurred amidst harsh words that keep rushing out like fiery sparks.
The students have dug their heels in and are adamant they will get their way, if not, they threatened to blockade the university building and stop the new academic year from starting with thousands of students attending. In all this it appears, while those supporting their protest keep saying that matters of complaints and discontent should be resolved within relevant legal and institutional bounds they seem to keep forgetting to mention that Previsic’s terms and conditions of employment, his employment rights, should also be left to legal and institutional bounds and not to the rioting students in the street. The war between the Dean and students grew larger than life it seems as the Dean accused the students of politicking, but the police reported that he had received death threats. Students continue to demand his resignation. Student Plenum was held Wednesday 21 September at night outside in front of the faculty building, because the doors of the Faculty building had been locked for 18 hours and heavily guarded due to fear of violence. Demands for the Dean’s resignation stands and student plenum decided upon 3 October as the date by which this should occur. The plenum also demanded the immediate resignation of the Rector of the University of Zagreb, Damir Boras.
Dean – Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Zagreb
These attacks against heads of Faculty/University are not really new to last week – the whole saga stretches several months back (since February) and arises from disagreements that surfaced following the tabling of the final draft at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Plenum of the proposal for a merger/cooperation agreement between this Faculty and the Catholic Faculty of Theology. A contract to similar effects was reportedly signed by the former Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences dean Damir Boras, now the University of Zagreb Rector, and the Dean of the Catholic Faculty of Theology, Tonci Matulic in June 2014. Some Professors and some students from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences then declared their opposition to the contract and, hence, it was placed on hold in early 2015.
The students protest against a reported lack of transparency of contents within the merger agreement, accusing the dean of autocracy and say they should also be the ones deciding whether the agreement or contract will or will not be signed. Such cooperation/merger would be seen as quite normal in other European countries or Western countries but it seems something truly disturbing is at play in Zagreb – remnants of communist minds that reject religion and faith being treated as mainstream, perhaps (?). It’s not unusual to graduate from a world-leading university similar faculty, majoring in Theology – but in Croatia, a former communist nest, this seems to pose problems for some who like to think of themselves it seems as decision makers and breakers.
If the Dean does not resign by 3 October and the rector is not dismissed the protesting students are threatening to blockade the Faculty. The plenum noted that the University Senate canceled the elections for the Student Assembly of the Faculty as well as the election of student representatives in the Faculty Council and say Senate had no powers to do that.
University of Zagreb rector
It is interesting to note that the demands from the above plenum (which itself looks violent and threatening and un-democratic) are supported by the politically left-wing inclined such as members of Social Democrat Party, Centre for Peace Studies, and Social Democratic Youth, the Labour Front, Antifascist Front, Group 112, Protagoras Association, the Centre for Women’s Studies, Croatian Peoples Party, Istrian Democratic Party…
The obnoxiously communist-leaning professor at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Neven Budak – who had been the dean for two mandates there – has been quite vocal in trying to stir revolt against the proposed merger with Faculty of Theology. He keeps stating that there is the question of equality between the students of each Faculty if these merged. That is, he says that enrollment in the Faculty of Theology requires certificate of baptism and the Parish priest’s recommendation. Stirring the pot against anything religious and provoking protesting sentiments Budak asks whether then any students at Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences wishing to enroll into Theology would also be required to submit these documents? In this students are not equal, he says and judging by his communist political past he would probably like to see baptism in the church dispensed with altogether. He says that he is personally more worried about student inequality after they graduate and when entering the work force because “we know that religious studies teachers are employed without public job advertisements, bypassing the will or the opinion of the schools…Church and teacher, who would be religious studies teacher and who has, for example, graduated from another subject, such as Croatian language studies, would of course, as the one already employed without competing for the job alongside other applicants, fill in as teacher of the Croatian language at the school should a vacancy arise, and our students would not…”
It’s disturbing how a communist mind still works in Croatia and to boot, Neven Budak was the last Secretary of the Communist Party branch at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, when in 1990 it ceased to exist as Yugoslavia was torn apart due to efforts of plights for democracy and independence.
It’s blatantly clear that what Croatia is dealing with here is yet another way or scandal to disrupt the government and governance of its institutions. One would not assume that students or staff have the executive power or decision making regarding any agreements or contracts the Faculty/University that arise as a matter of operating the educational institution. One can comment or discuss to exhaustion but the final say lies with those charged with the responsibility and delegation for decision making.
Member of Croatian Parliament for the diaspora General Zeljko Glasnovic raised a mighty storm when he reacted on Saturday 24 September to the student protest and blockades saying as follows:
“The defeated political forces and their useful idiots have commenced a media lynch against Professor Vlatko Previsic … This social performance is played by spoiled brats of recycled communists, quasi-intellectuals who have not worked and just like their parents they want to secure for themselves a comfortable laziness… They are a minority gang of two hundred anarchists and Bolshevik Satanists who block the work of the Faculty and prevent more than 7,000 students from attending classes… In developed democracies, when a minority oppresses the majority, the problem is solved with police batons and tear gas. I propose the formation of a foundation that will enable one-way, non-returnable journey of young Titoists and their leaders with unshaven legs to Pyongyang. There, they will have all the time in the world top develop their own quasi democracy. There, like their grandparents, they can sing for eternity: we will plant the wheat from the sky, while America and England look on.”
General Zeljko Glasnovic,
Photo: Goran Mehkek/Cropix
While Glasnovic’s words were judged by many as harsh, insulting, extremist and unfounded, it is interesting and indicative of bias to note that his criticisers say that the student plenum – against which he spoke – has a long history of peaceful speech and conduct, which does not include incidents of violence or call for violence! Well, if ultimatums the plenum has given for University employees (the Dean…) to be stood down without reference to any rights as employee and threats of blockades of the Faculty are not in the category of violence, what is?
Without any doubt, Glasnovic’s words against the students will serve as a new foundation for communists and former communists to undermine progress and true democracy under a predominantly conservative new government and keep vilifying diaspora (Glasnovic had lived in Canada for many years before returning to Croatia to help defend the country from Serb aggression in early 1990’s) as extremist and distancing it from Croatia as communists did during the life of communist Yugoslavia.
There comes a time in a nation, especially in a former communist nation transitioning into democracy, when niceties, bon ton, political correctness and such need to be dispensed with and “a spade called a spade”. Here we have aggressive students in Zagreb who are on a mission to topple the Faculty dean and the University rector with vicious and unforgiving force, who have the hide to point the finger at Glasnovic for his words of criticism against their moves and behaviour, which essentially would deny access to studies to 7,000 students until their demands are met. The latest version of student demands that if the dean is sent into retirement as he will be 71 years old next year then the students will not seek the dismissal of the University rector. So, these students and their supporters will engage in discrimination against a 71-year-old, force him into retirement because he made some bad decisions in his work according to the students – and still call Glasnovic extremist.
And these students and their supporters have the gall to call Glasnovic extremist. Rarely has anyone seen such brutal degradation and derogation of one person’s employment rights and fair treatment as we see here against dean Previsic.
If that’s not behaviour reminiscent of communist Yugoslavia, nothing is. Glasnovic speaks out what most people know and feel – Croatia needs to rid itself of every little bit of communist Yugoslavia once and for all – by any means necessary!
Student plenum outside Faculty building
Zagreb Croatia 21 September 2016
Photo: Jurica Galoic/Pixsell
On Saturday 24 September Zeljko Glasnovic, MP, said that there is a need to carry out an academic lustration and de-communisation and throw a light onto historic events and as to the many negative comments his words against the students’ protest attracted he said:
“Structures that were here in 1990 have infiltrated Croatia. They have infiltrated and taken over the cultural space, media, education, and politics. I do not care about what someone will think of me, I will speak that for which I think is the truth. We whispered for 40-50 years, that does not need to continue.”
Glasnovic attended a mass in remembrance of the 35 highly positioned officers of the Croatian Army of WWII Independent State of Croatia either sent to death or imprisoned for life in September 1945 after WWII ended by Yugoslav communist authorities from Belgrade, Serbia. Glasnovic said that it is necessary to research the past. “Inversion, lies and deceit about history continue in Croatia. History is a branch of science and not hearsay. That is an area that needs research. George Orwell said – he who controls the past, controls the future. Someone else has always been writing our history and that is why we are where we are. We carry out our internal and foreign politics without a historical context and until such time when academic lustration and de-communisation are carried out in Croatia we will not have a Croatian state.” Truer words are rarely spoken in Croatia these days. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)
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