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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, July 28, 2010, 9:00 AM ET

    Press release

    Joint Statement of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies and the Shevchenko Scientific Society of Canada on the Recent Developments Regarding Academic Freedom in Ukraine

    Our organizations, closely monitoring the post-election situation in Ukraine, expresses their deep concern at recent attempts to curtail the autonomy of academic institutions and academic freedom in Ukraine. These developments threaten to abrogate the hard-won right to free speech on campus; to pit administrators against students; to influence admission policies, personnel decisions, and academic curricula; and to enforce the unanimity of thought and behavior on campus. They are disturbingly reminiscent of the former official practices of intimidation, coercion, and cooptation of educational institutions in Soviet Ukraine—and of neo-Stalinist practices elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.

    We are concerned by the attempt on 18 May 2010 by a representative of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to obtain the signature of Fr. Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic University on a document intended to pressure the administration of the UCU to cooperate with the SBU. Although Fr. Gudziak responded in a brave and principled way, refusing to sign his name to the letter, it appears that SBU representatives have already met with administrators at other universities and obtained some measure of cooperation.

    We are concerned by Decree No. 1353-r, issued by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on July 7, 2010, which officially transferred the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and the National University of Ostroh Academy to the management of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. In previous years these universities acted under the direct formal authority of the Cabinet of Ministers. While Ukrainian law requires that all universities fall under the purview of the Ministry of Education and Science, it is the implementation of the decree that will clarify the government's position and will indicate the nature of its policies toward higher education.

    Since the re-establishment of Ukraine's independence, these universities have been at the forefront of educational reform, based on the fundamental principles of academic freedom and university autonomy—two indispensable pillars of institutions of higher education. We are dismayed—and have made this dismay known to our news media and elected officials—at the way the authorities of Ukraine are treating Ukraine's institutions of higher education, and fear the return of Stalinist practices.

    We urge all officials and representatives of official bodies to respect these fundamental principles, and to desist from the coercion of university administrators, faculty, staff, and students. With Fr. Gudziak, we urge them "not to [commit] actions that would cause lasting damage to [their] own identity and shame [their] children and grandchildren."

    On behalf of the Board of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies,
    Prof. Vitaly Chernetsky
    AAUS President

    On behalf of the Shevchenko Scientific Society of Canada,
    Dr. Daria Darewych

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