Students protest against new Chancellor Candidate at Tbilisi State University
By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, March 14
The Prime Minister of Georgia made a statement concerning the latest developments in Tbilisi State University (TSU), where the students are holding protest rallies against Chancellor candidate Giorgi Gaprindashvili.
The students claim that Gaprindashvili’s name is connected to several violent incidents within TSU and tried to prevent the Chancellor's elections. They also mentioned Gaprindashvili’s connections with Georgia’s law-enforcement bodies.
The PM called upon Gaprindashvili to remove his candidacy in order to avoid any conflict among the students.
“As some doubts have emerged against the background of the current escalation concerning the government interfering in the process, I would like to ask the TSU rector to provide the independence and transparency of the election process,” stated the PM, and noted that an independent management process of the University is the priority for the government.
According to the Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, the protest of the students in TSU is all part of a healthy process.
“I can see no problem when the students express their opinion aloud. The main thing is that the Principal should listen to their opinion,” noted Tsulukiani, and expressed hope that the students and the Principal will find a peaceful way to resolve the situation.
The protest of the students is also connected to the fact that University Rector Vladimer Papava confirmed the existence of so-called 'ODRs' affiliated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs at TSU. The term ODR means ‘active reserve officer’, and refers to employees of state security agencies. The students are demanding an immediate investigation, saying it threatens the autonomy of the University and indicates interference from the government.
Rector Vladimer Papava called upon the students to stop the rallies. He said that there will be a traditional university Academic Council meeting, which will discuss the issues defined by the Academic Council regulations.
According to Papava, the situation can be regulated and he is not going to resign.
"When there are certain processes in the university, first of all, the issue of the Rector’s responsibility may be raised. Therefore, the least person who is interested in these processes is the Rector," said Papava.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) condemn the existence of so-called ODRs at the university. Transparency International Georgia has released a statement calling upon the government to remove the ODRs at universities and investigate their activities timely.
“The situation at Tbilisi State University is an evident example of how the government aims to use the ODR institutes, which is a dangerous threat to the democratic development of the state,” the statement of Transparency reads.
The Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) expressed their support to the TSU students.
According to the Head of GYLA, Ana Natsvlishvili, it is pity that only a few lecturers support the students.
“We express our solidarity with the students and they can count on us if they need any legal assistance. Academic space should be completely free from any political influence,” Natsvlishvili stressed.
The candidate for the Chancellor's post, Giorgi Gaprindashvili, refuses to withdraw his candidacy, saying that the accusations against him are false. Gaprindashvili noted that the PM’s opinion means much to him but the election process proceeds within the legal frames.
“I plan to meet the members of Academic Council of the University, who support my candidacy. I will listen to their opinion and make my final decision afterwards,” stated Gaprindashvili.
The students and lecturers of Ilia University joined the protesters and expressed their solidarity with them.