Monday, March 28, 2005

Orange revolution strikes for academic freedom 

According to a note in todays The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only), Viktor Yushchenko is calling for the resignation of university officials in Ukraine that tried to suppress students from participating in the Orange Revolution:
The president of Ukraine has told the nation's university rectors that he expects letters of resignation from those who abused their offices in the elections that brought him to power.

"This is my moral demand," Viktor A. Yushchenko said on Thursday in a speech at the Ministry of Education and Science in Kiev, the capital. "Everyone who allowed violations of the dignity of students must reflect thoroughly. Those who compromised themselves must leave the walls of the universities."

The government reportedly has investigated more than half of 186 complaints of abuses in the campaign last year between Mr. Yushchenko, who won in a runoff election, and Viktor F. Yanukovich, who initially was declared the victor in a vote widely regarded as rigged.

Some rectors allegedly forced their staff members and students to support one or the other candidate, but almost without exception the beneficiary of their alleged actions was Mr. Yanukovich. He was backed by the president at the time, Leonid Kuchma, to whose administration many rectors owe their jobs.
There were reports that students who actively supported Yushchenko were being tossed out of university housing (in the winter months) and actively discouraged from Yushchenko rallies. There will be some question whether the new government is meddling in academic freedom. I would think, though, that since university rectors are presidential appointments, they probably don't enjoy the same freedoms as the faculty.