Strolling into the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Belgrade one could tell a difference in the atmosphere; the outside of the Faculty littered with signs, posters and placards. One particular sign stated “Faculty of Political Science under management of students” another more visible banner proclaimed “when injustice becomes law, resistance is your responsibility.” As I enter through the door it becomes obvious that the faculty is in all actuality under the management of students. Music could be heard blasting from the lecture halls, students engaging each other in card playing and chess while others occupy themselves in pro-evolution soccer duals on play station consuls. I imagine that if I were to ever visit the headquarters of Face-book or Google that this is how it would be. But I wasn’t imagining, this is the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade. Only students roamed the corridors. The random Professor could be seen strolling through but for the most part they were either on their way out or just quickly passing through. Lectures have been halted, the Faculty effectively shut downed.
Members of the non-teaching staff are still active on the compound of the Faculty but it is obvious that their hands are tied. The Faculty dean is presently out of the country and from what was relayed he is the only one with the authority to resolve the situation. The students’ demands are simple: They would like a return to last year’s academic arrangement where students were simply required to pass all of the academic year’s exams –gaining 60 credits- and if successfully done, they were to be financed by the Faculty. The new arrangement however requires that students receive not only 60 credits but must also maintain an 8/10 average, which in effect is 80% or a 3.0 GPA in order to be financed by the Faculty.
The purpose of the protest is to reject this proposition by the Faculty’s administration. Furthermore, the students are not only advocating a return to the previous year’s arrangement but are also insisting on a reduction from 60 to 48 credits.
On the other side it is argued that the financial state of the Faculty of Political Science is unable to maintain the current situation. Some have noted that the Faculty has also taken it upon themselves to finance those students seriously affected by the floods which took place in Serbia earlier this year, and with this additional burden it is therefore unrealistic to continue such expenditure under the current circumstances.
Therefore, we have a predicament which can only be resolved through more consultations between the student representatives and Faculty administrators. The students are obviously determined to hold out as long as they deem necessary and there has been no signs of agitation from other students or Professors to expedite the resumption of classes. The blockade is therefore destined to last at least till the end of this week (17.10.14).
As a fellow student, I affirm my solidarity with my colleagues in their quest to gain what they sincerely believe is justly theirs. But may this be a lesson to students the world over that tertiary level education is not a right but rather a privilege, and if or when the demands of the students are met it should become clear to students on a whole the seriousness and importance of a formal education. Former US President Theodore Roosevelt once noted that “nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” The students of the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade Serbia have committed themselves to a cause and appear ardent in seeing it through. It is yet to be seen what the final result would be, but Professors at the Faculty should feel a sense of accomplishment in witnessing their student’s willingness to go the distance for a cause.
The only caveat that I would note is the importance for students to protest and voice their discontent in a responsible manner. It is common in instances such as these that the nobility of the aspiration is tarnished by a chaotic few. The protest leaders and the students in general must maintain a level of discipline, must respect Faculty property and its personnel. In addition, negotiating in good faith and in a respectful manner with the administration of the Faculty could only bring positive benefits to all parties involved.
Mikhail E.D. Byng