Never give UP!

On October 9, hundreds of students marched under the slogan “Never Give UP!”, indicating their determination and resistance towards giving up the University of Prishtina (UP) to meddling party groups and mafia clans. The march was organized by a group of students and civil society activists, including myself, in reaction to the immense pressure the senate and another group of protesting students had put on the current rector Zejnullahu.

The University of Prishtina has been and continues to be more than just an academic institution. From its inception, it has been the cradle of political and social change in Kosovo, and an incubator of various political classes that have marked Kosovo’s history. Before the 1999 war it was the site of protests for language rights, and later, against Milosevic’s repressive regime. In the past 16 years, the political struggle has changed, turning the university into a battlefield of clashing political interests.

Corruption, plagiarism, and crime have forcibly managed to occupy a great deal of space, leaving the university in a dire state. This became explicit in January 2014, when it was revealed by Koha Ditore that the then-university rector, Ibrahim Gashi, earned his academic titles through publications in dubious journals. Students of the University of Prishtina organized massive protests that raged for two weeks. They culminated in police brutality against more than 5,000 protesters who had been asking for Gashi’s resignation. The protests, considered the largest university protests since the war, were organized by the Student Political Club (Klubi Politik i Studenteve) and the Student Movement SKV. It was the first protest in recent history that had success: after two weeks Rector Gashi stepped down.

After an interim rector, mathematician Ramadan Zejnullahu was appointed to lead the university. Shortly after taking the post, the new rector promised that he would change the current state of the university, by fighting for meritocracy, and combating crime, corruption, and the abuse of power. Before the implementation of these ambitious reforms had even started, Zejnullahu faced resistance from different “party gangs” (both student organizations and professors) for which the UP is no more than an anchor for their own militants where they grow up and learn how to eschew public responsibility. As if out of the blue, the Student Parliament of the UP, the majority of which are marionettes of political parties, began to protest and tried to sabotage the new rector. The Student Political Club (KPS), as a leftist political organization, responded with protests of its own.

Marching together with activists and civil society members, we called out against the meddling of criminal clans and political parties, expressing our support to the reforms proclaimed by the current management of the UP. As it was seen some days later, we were completely ignored, because the Rector was dismissed nevertheless.

On October 21, Rector Zejnullahu was dismissed by the Board of the University, based on the recommendation of the Senate, which claimed the rector had violated the procedures and regulations, and had ignored the requests of the Student Parliament. Immediately after, the KPS released a press release, revealing all the political ties and academic plagiarism that members of the Board and Senate had. The next day, we organized another march in support of the rector, about a thousand people turned up. On the very same day the Minister of the Education Arsim Bajrami decided to nullify the decision of the Board. Moreover, he dismissed the president of the Board.

At the moment, the situation at the University is quiet, while the fight against anti-corruption and neoliberal policies for a better public university continues. Realistically, it is not an isolated struggle, but an international one. As KPS, we’re not under the illusion that the Ministry will cooperate in the future. Seeing that the Ministry and the Government are the main culprits behind the current state of the University of Prishtina, we should continue to be wary of them even if the rector is back for now.

Fitim Sallihu is a member of the Student Political Club (KPS) and one of the organizers of the pro-rector protests.


01 December 2015 - 14:20

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