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Czech ethnology students' strike does not achieve removal of director, but they have bigger plans

22.5.2015 9:58
The launch of the ethnology students' strike at Charles University, 6 May 2015. (PHOTO:  bau)
The launch of the ethnology students' strike at Charles University, 6 May 2015. (PHOTO: bau)

A strike by some ethnology students at Charles University in Prague has not succeeded in its aim of removing Marek Jakoubek, director of the Institute of Ethnology, from his post. "The strike is over, but our initiative is not," the students announced on 12 May.

Dean Mirjam Friedová published a statement on the matter on the first day of the strike. In it she summarized the background and circumstances of the situation and also discussed those matters in a recent interview with  

"I consider the only reasonable resolution to such conflicts to be a discussion of the facts. I have met more than once with the representatives of the ethnology students who are expressing their dissatisfaction with the leadership of Docent Jakoubek (most recently on 30 April 2015) and my impression was that we were engaged in substantive dialogue and arriving at a resolution of the disputed questions. I then offered to meet with the students again. I have also publicly and repeatedly negotiated with the representatives of the unions and the students at sessions of the Academic Senate, as the freely available records prove. I therefore consider the announcement of the 'Occupation Strike' action by some ethnology students to be a unilateral violation of our mutual undertaking. It is not essential whether the law recognizes the institution of a student strike or not; I understand this response in fact to be an ordinary strike, an ultimatum that declares that one side is moving from rational argumentation to exerting pressure," the Dean wrote in her statement.

The students say they were surprised by the Dean's statement. "We are of the opinion that Madame Dean should take her students seriously and listen to their opinions, not belittle and vilify them. Thanks to her statement, we see that our initiative makes sense. This is not just about ethnology, it is a problem of the entire Department of Arts. We want to open a discussion about the current events at the department, but at the same time, we don't want to be in the role of mere observers. Students of the department are primarily supposed to be taught critical thinking and the courage to express their opinions. If the leadership of the department has a problem with that, there is evidently something wrong. We thank everyone who has supported us and hope you will join the continuation of our initiative, which is aiming for a more open department in which the students and their opinions will have some weight," the students responded.   

bau, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Etnologie, FF UK, Marek Jakoubek, Mirjam Friedová


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