March 5, 2013
On the 27th of February, 2012 students gathered to protest ongoing hearings of the Verkhovna Rada’s Committee on Education concerning new laws and regulations “On Higher Education.” The students are demanding that a newly proposed Law, authored by Kivalov, Kaletnik, and Soroka be removed from the hearing’s agenda and that the authors leave their offices and come to meet the students.
Since the parliamentarians rejected any meeting with the students, the protestors filled three ceramic piggy banks with slips of paper on which they wrote their recommendations and demands. These piggy banks were handed over to elected officials who took part in the Committee of Education’s hearings.
In the words of the students taking part in this protest, the proposed law of Kivalov, Kaletnik, and Soroka opens up the door of corruption and a return to the practice of taking bribes for admission instead of scholastic merit and entrance exam results. The proposed law paralyzes institutional autonomy, academic freedom and student mobility to graduate studies of choice. The new law proposes the creation of an “All Ukrainian Student Union” which will be controlled and monopolized by the government and will silence the voices of students with opposing political views.
Voices of diversity, dissent, disagreement, the voices of women, minorities, and the disenfranchised will effectively be silenced if this law passes.
Proponents of the soviet style law said to the media: “Той хто платить той замовляє”, meaning “He who pays calls the tune”, suggesting a soviet formula of control over education, revealing a dangerous totalitarian vision of education and a propensity toward corruption , while implying that students will be barred from higher education if they won’t be able to pay bribes for admission and to receive diplomas.
The Ukrainian student movement has taken to streets since 2010 and effectively prevented the adoption of two previously proposed laws similar to the currently proposed one. Ukrainian students demand that Universities and Colleges of Higher Learning adhere to practices and policies established by the European Union and North America, which require academic freedom, the autonomy of universities, the independence of university rectors, the highest level of scholarship, and the aspirations to contribute to the democratic process.