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800 Dismissed University Staff Demand the Justice Reinstated

July 15, 2005

800 Dismissed University Staff Demand the Justice Reinstated

Internal “reforms” at Tbilisi State University have made it a battleground between the administration and faculty. Eight hundred employees were left without job and the meeting with University Rector Ms. Rusudan Lortkipanidze did not lead to a resolution.  And despite a street protest by professors, Minister Kakha Lomaia reported that these University reforms will continue. As for the jobless employees, they will receive 50 or 60 lari as a stipend.

We spoke to Mrs. Nestan Kirtadze, one of the dismissed lecturers, who detailed the current process and stated that the law about higher education was followed by heated debate right from the start. Representative and academic councils should have been chosen in the governing body of the university.  Both of these councils should have chosen a rector and the tri-partite university government would all be elected through transparent elections as defined by the rules of the university.  It was also mentioned that any of the scientists could hold an academic position by taking part in open competition. But suddenly as of July 8th of this year, Saakashvili signed an absolutely illegal decree and put himself beyond the law, not as the President of Georgia, but as the author of a legal act nullifying these university functions.  Basically, Saakashvili did what Bolsheviks could not manage to do: he abolished Tbilisi State University. Today the university must concede its entire governing rights to only the rector those performing the dean’s duties.  This is illegal; they implemented not reform, but something like political order, the purpose of it is to abolish Tbilisi State University or, optimistically, to convert it into one of the schooling buildings. At the same time, as it may seem paradoxical, the selling and privatization of the university buildings is being conducted in secrecy.

- Did you know beforehand about the reduction of university staff?

- The first thing that frustrated the university employees was on Saturday (which is usually a day off) when the university employees learned about the dismissals from lists posted in the hall of the university. This kind of illegal action toward the professors sacrificed the life of Tamar Kekelidze, a young scientist in the department of archaeology, when she learned at the cash desk that she was set free. However, Minister of Education Kakha Lomaia stated that the lectors received the notice one month prior to their dismissal. It seems that only some lecturers were informed, though each employee of the university from janitorial staff to the professors had the right to know about this reform.  Their rights were clearly violated.  University Rector Mrs. Rusudan Lortkipanidze stated that she does not know who dismissed the academic staff.

Professors still continue fighting for their rights.  The subject was discussed within a legal framework and they appealed to the Board of Administrative Affairs of the Appeal Court. Their first hearing is on August the 3rd and the President Saakashvili will have to be presented as a defendant. Another hearing is set for July the 13th in the Constitutional Court where the Professor Loria, one of the head-masters of the law faculty, has brought the suit against the same unconstitutional actions. If the government does not satisfy their demand, the dismissed academic staff of the university intend to bring suit in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg. The  academic staff think, that the government will try to deny the decision-making process by the court.

Tea Gvaradze