Today (November 21), academic standards and the autonomy of the university triumphed over political influence. The whole process, which unfortunately took more than five years, has substantially improved the University of Belgrade. In these five years, the university has introduced an obligation to publish all doctoral theses on its website and to check for plagiarism centrally, rather than leaving it up to individual faculties. These small steps will, hopefully, lead the whole institution to a brighter future.
On the other hand, this whole case also showed a great division in our society which is unable to agree on even the most obvious values. If, as a society, we are unable to reach a consensus about such an ethically unambiguous question as whether copying a text without quotation is plagiarism and whether such behavior is socially acceptable, how are we ever supposed to agree on anything, let alone more sensitive topics which depend on one’s personal commitment or values?
Although I have no political ambitions, nor am I a public figure, during these five years I have been exposed to tabloid attacks, threats, and demands for my dismissal from my job. The media apparatus tried to portray my fight against plagiarism and academic dishonor, which is essentially a fight for justice and the future of the University of Belgrade, as some kind of personal vendetta, even though I have no connection, personal or professional, to any of the authors whose work I’ve analyzed.
The fate of the University of Belgrade will largely depend on how we as a society treat its independence. The fate of our oldest, largest and best institution of higher education should remain in the hands of its professors and students, and out of the reach of politics. Serbia is a country in which whole generations of young and talented people are currently growing up. In order for this talent to reach its full potential, academic integrity and independence of the university must be preserved.
Translated by Marijana Simic