published: 25.10.2013, 09:33 | updated: 25.10.2013 13:40:22
Prague - More than 20 of the Czech 26 public university rectors will not attend the October 28 national holiday celebration at Prague Castle as they mind President Milos Zeman having not invited two of them, Czech Rectors´ Conference deputy chairman Ivo Medek told CTK today.
Only two rectors plan to attend the event, a discussion of rectors has shown.
Zeman´s spokeswoman Hana Burianova told CTK that it is up to each rector whether to attend the celebration.
The rectors are resolutely against the academic soil being politicised, Medek said.
The rectors today discussed a joint reaction by phone and e-mail.
Most of them confirmed their participation in the Prague Castle event before, but on Thursday it turned out that Zeman has not invited Brno´s Masaryk University rector Mikulas Bek and South Bohemian University rector Libor Grubhoffer.
The Presidential Office has not said why Bek and Grubhoffer were not invited to the ceremony held on the national holiday marking the anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918, in which university rectors have traditionally participated.
Bek said he has not been invited probably because he did not enable Zeman to give a lecture at the university in September, a few weeks ahead of the general election.
Grubhoffer, for his part, refused to attend the ceremony of new professors´ appointment in spring because he minded Zeman´s refusal to grant professorship to his critic, university teacher Martin C. Putna.
Charles University (UK) rector and Czech Rectors´ Conference head Vaclav Hampl refused to attend the celebration on Thursday already.
"All rectors of public and state universities have always been invited in the past 23 years, and [Hampl] considers the violation of this tradition very unfortunate," said UK spokesman Vaclav Hajek.
Earlier today, invitation to the October 28 event was declined for the same reasons by Prague Mayor Tomas Hudecek (TOP 09).
Medek said universities do not want to interfere in the pre-election political campaign nor do they like the idea of being in dispute with Prague Castle. Nevertheless, they could not but raise protest in this case, he said.
One of the rectors who re-confirmed their participation is Fine Arts Academy rector Jiri Kotalik, who told CTK that he want to pay honour to the personalities to be decorated with state awards on that occasion.
Another other one is Rene Wokoun, rector of Usti nad Labem´s Jan Evangelista Purkyne University, who said it looks as if the gentlemen involved found themselves in a sand pit and were destroying each other´s sand pies.
Rector Bek should show restraint and generosity, Wokoun said.
Czech mayors decline president´s invitation to awarding ceremony
A number of Czech town mayors, including Prague Mayor Tomas Hudecek, today said they will not attend the October 28 ceremony of state awards presentation by President Milos Zeman in protest against some steps of Zeman such as his failure to invite two rectors to the event.
This reason was given by Hudecek as well as Plzen Mayor Martin Baxa and Jihlava Mayor Jaroslav Vymazal (both Civic Democrats, ODS), while other mayors have cited different reasons.
"In advanced countries it is a matter of course that rectors rank among the most respected personalities. Prague Castle, with its approach, shows disrespect of education and civilisation in this country," Hudecek said.
Prague Castle is the seat of the Czech president and his office.
Zeman has sent invitations to Czech universities´ rectors except from Brno´s Masaryk University rector Mikulas Bek and South Bohemian University rector Libor Grubhoffer.
Bek recently did not enable Zeman to talk to university students ahead of the October 25-26 early general election. He said it would breach the university´s political neutrality.
Grubhoffer criticised Zeman for refusing to grant professorship to university teacher and literary scientist Martin C.Putna, a critic of Zeman.
Hudecek said he wants to support the two rectors not only as a politician but also as a lecturer at the Charles University´s Faculty of Science.
"In this situation, I cannot attend the Prague Castle ceremony not only as mayor of the capital city but also as a member of the academic community," Hudecek said.
He said he considers Zeman´s approach disrespectful of rectors and academic freedoms.
President should stand above parties and be noble-minded, Hudecek added.
For the same reasons, the invitation to the ceremony has been declined by Charles University rector Vaclav Hampl and the rectors of the universities in Hradec Kralove and Olomouc.
Baxa said Zeman´s failure to invite Bek and Grubhoffer was scandalous, but even before he was determined not to attend the October 28 celebration because he minds Zeman´s choice of personalities to receive state decorations, such as former communist farming coperative head Frantisek Cuba.
Vymazal said he will not go to Prague Castle because he minds Zeman´s way of handling issues that are of crucial importance for the state.
Other mayors said they will not go to Prague due to their busy schedule.
The Presidential Office has not said why Bek and Grubhoffer were not invited to the ceremony held on October 28, the national holiday marking the anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918.
The Czech Conference of Rectors is reportedly discussing a joint decision on whether to participate in the ceremony, in which university rectors have annually participated.
Zeman was inaugurated as Czech president in March.
Czech student group calls on rectors to ignore state celebration
The Student Spring group has called on the rectors of Czech universities not to attend the national holiday celebration at Prague Castle on October 28 in protest against the fact that President Milos Zeman has not invited two rectors.
Zeman has violated the tradition and he has turned the official state event into his private party, the student group from Brno says.
Zeman did not invite Brno´s Masaryk University rector Mikulas Bek and South Bohemian University rector Libor Grubhoffer.
Bek said he believes he was not invited because Masaryk University did not enable Zeman to give a lecture there in September. Zeman´s speech during the election campaign would clearly breach the principle of political neutrality of the university as Zeman is the honorary chairman of one of the parties which was even named after him, Bek argued, referring to the Party of Citizens' Rights - the Zemanites (SPOZ).
Grubhoffer supported literary historian and critic Martin Putna when Zeman refused to appoint him professor earlier this year. Zeman then pointed to Putna´s participation in the Prague Pride homosexual march. Putna criticised Zeman in the past.
The Student Spring writes in its call that the rectors should not attend the traditional ceremony, during which the president bestows state decorations on selected personalities, to clearly show that "the academic community will not let the president humiliate it and divide it."
Masaryk University academic senate deputy head Pavel Troubil said Zeman tries to exert pressure on Czech universities and their autonomy again, as he did in the Professor Putna case. The academic communities are obliged not to bend their heads because they might pay dearly for it later.
The Presidential Office did not release the reasons why it did not send an official invitation to Bek.
"It is a personal decision of the president and we will not comment on it," Zeman´s spokesman Hana Burianova said.
University rectors have traditionally taken part in the ceremony held on October 28, marking the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak state in 1918.
"On Monday, I will be absent from the award-giving ceremony, but not because of any real or diplomatic flu, but because I was not invited as rector of the second biggest Czech university," Bek said on Thursday.
Charles University rector Vaclav Hampl said he would not take part in the ceremony because not all the rectors received the invitation.
"In the past 23 years rectors of all public and state universities were always invited (to the October 28 official event) and I consider the violation of this tradition very unfortunate," Hampl said.
Prague´s Charles University is the biggest university in the country.
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