It’s not Vucic’s fault. It wasn’t Milosevic’s either. Nor Tito’s. Nor king Aleksandar’s, nor even Nikola Pasic’s. As individuals, they can’t be solely culpable for Serbia’s nosedive. They couldn’t have done it alone, not with all their packs of ventriloquist dummies, ready to do any dirty deed required of them. The real question is how they are even possible? How come they always appear, so arrogant, vain, obsessive, and take over unrestrained power? Or, maybe they don’t even take it? We offer it to them, on a silver platter, and lined with doily. How do we manage to produce that pigswill for ourselves each time there’s an opportunity to lift our heads up and clear our eyes? We wag our tails like puppies and throw ourselves on our backs, we eradicate ourselves as a society, cancel the institutions, trample the laws, proclaim ourselves incompetent, we mute ourselves as individuals. And stare vacantly at our own demise.
This is what the Professional ethics committee of the Belgrade University did yesterday, by referring the case of Sinisa Mali’s doctoral thesis back to the Faculty of Organizational Sciences (FOS) for deliberation, although appeals submitted to the Committee requested that it establishes plagiarism and denies approval of the doctoral degree to Sinisa Mali. This scandal has lasted for five years now. More than 10 committees have tried to determine what has been going on with that thesis. They failed. The last opinion of the FOS Expert committee, as the Professional ethics committee has now established, was “incomplete, vague, and inconsistent.” So, what to do now? Apparently, refer the case back to the same institution that not only refused to deal with this issue for years, but whose Academic council already accepted the last report of its Expert committee for evaluating theses. In other words, the entire Faculty stood behind the opinion that Mali’s doctoral thesis is almost completely fine.
What is to be expected from FOS now? That its Expert committee should now write a more complete, less vague, and entirely opposite opinion? And that then the Academic council would accept it, just as it accepted the previous, completely different one? Or are we to expect the Expert committee to maintain its previous stance that only the now-legendary 6.97% of the thesis was plagiarized, apparently making the thesis perfectly acceptable? If that’s the case, maybe the Professional ethics committee now expects the Academic council to reject the same finding this time around? I can’t tell which of these two solutions I like better.
“Autocrat” is a misnomer. No one can hold power on their own. They need the selfless aid of the whole society, the consent of “the elite and the mob”, the unconditional support of everyone, and particularly of supposedly autonomous institutions, and nods from self-proclaimed authorities on integrity and morals. We made it happen so many times. We offered dictators their power on a silver platter, and cheered them to go faster, stronger, and better. But when a university eradicates itself, when it annuls the value of education, annulling thus also each and every defended doctoral thesis and every earned grade, then the society arrives to its end. When universities fall, the entire society falls. And it lines the platter with a doily again. To make it nicer for the dictator.
Translated by Milica Jovanovic
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