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Adventures in Macedonia (Part III) April 18, 2013

Posted by etschneider in Students, Teaching.
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Another part of the interview, this time we were dealing with the Senate of the University, the atmosphere there, some view about the inspectorate and other subjects like the atmosphere, the position of the French embassy and so on.

Part 3 of the interview

Miroslava Simonovska (MS): Because you have been a member of the Senate of UIST, tell our readers more about its operation. Did anything odd occur during your tenure?

Etienne Schneider (ES): During my first year at the university, there was nothing out of the ordinary. There were sometimes some tensions with the former administration, but it was always professional and in the best interests of the students and the nation. After the change of governance, things changed drastically, as I described in my answer to the first question above.


MS: Who is now taking your place at UIST?
ES: I do not know. When I was removed from the team, except for two persons, who joined us beginning of September, I was not aware of any new hire or staffing change happening. It might have been prepared – but then I wonder why I was not fired earlier – or it must have happened in a hurry after I left, since I was laid off on the day of the opening ceremony for the new academic year.


MS: Describe the atmosphere at UIST now. What have you heard?
ES: All I can say is second hand information since I haven’t been on campus since I was fired. What I was told from multiple people is that “Everyone is watching his back,” and “Everyone is afraid of the current administration.” During In the academic year 2010-2011, the atmosphere was good.

Emails about diplomas

MS: The Inspector of Education says that you did not submit your diploma, and therefore formally the University is clear of any legal responsibility. What would be your response to that?
ES: As I stated earlier, I provided gave to the university with the full extend of my diplomas in early June 2010. I gave another set of copies of my diplomas to the person in charge of preparing the papers for my "new" work permit by the end of August 2011 and I sent a copy to the Minister for Information Society, Mr. Ivo Ivanovski, in early October 2011.
Furthermore, the current administration requested all of the professors to submit copies of their diplomas "for the Ministry of Education" via EMail on August 18th. I replied on the same day providing all my diplomas (i.e. from Bachelor to PhD).
Finally, the person acting as General Secretary at the Senate meeting on September 1st clearly stated that “Only [the American professor] is not legally allowed to work here because he didn’t submit his PhD diploma” this leads me to believe that the copies of my diplomas had been correctly received at that point in time.

MS: What does the Embassy of France think of all of this? Did they react? How did they react? What did they say about the requirement that the professor must have a visa and a work permit? Who is in charge of obtaining the visa and work permit: UIST or you?
ES: The embassy has been morally supportive. From the point on where I noticed things becoming strange at UIST, I have kept in contact with them.
The people working at the Embassy told me that they didn’t understand how things like this could happen, and that it was not a normal situation (especially regarding the voiding of my contract). They met several times with their British counterpart, and with the Macedonian Minister of Education. From what I have been told, he was embarrassed by the situation and asked my Ambassador to tell me not to go public, not to make trouble for the university. Apparently the Minister told my Embassy that the university would immediately propose a new contract. This was postponed for a few weeks, then to January, and finally never happened.
It has to be noted that the French Embassy cannot interfere between one of its citizens and a foreign government, but they also would not allow one of their citizens to be illegally mistreated. As for the work permit, it is the duty of the employer to obtain it; the employee cannot get one by himself. So UIS&T was in charge of obtaining the work permit.

MS: Did you get your salaries?
ES: Ever since I started teaching at UIS&T, salaries have always been paid late (two to three months of delay in average). And from what I know, this was already the case before I went to work at UIS&T. I got my July and August salaries in the last days of October.

Adventures in Macedonia (Part II) April 3, 2013

Posted by etschneider in Students, Teaching.
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I continue the series of posts based on the experience I got in Macedonia. It is important to notice that these series of posts is only about my last three months at the University for Information Science & Technology in Ohrid.

Ancient theater of Ohrid, Oil "façon"

Part II of the Interview:

Miroslava Simonovska (MS): many people claim that the direction of the University has changed from international to local. Did you notice any irregularities in the operation of the University? If so, please tell us what has changed.

Etienne Schneider (ES): First, I was told that some lectures were held in Macedonian, and some local TV reported that too. Then, I noticed, as did Kanal5 – a Macedonian TV channel – that some Macedonian professors are listed with different "country of origin" on the University website: Norway, USA and France to be exact. If those professors previously worked in those countries, this is a very poor choice of words, to say the least. Finally, during Summer 2011, I noticed several new pages of the University’s website written only in Macedonian. I notified the webmaster and some changes were made, but not all of them and I never received any answer.


MS: Did the university employ staff (professors and other employees) inappropriately? For example people without diplomas?

ES: It is difficult to say. I was asked to submit my diplomas before starting to work. The administration received them in early June 2010 and I started working on September 1st. One side of the story asserted that the American professor did not submit his diploma whereas another claims he was hired as a consultant and that the rules  differ in such a case.
I discussed with Professor Peter Bock about that kind of issue. He confirmed that the University plan approved in 2008 did not require a visiting professor to own a doctorate. The purpose of this is, as it is in many American universities, to acknowledge that chosen industry experts have the bona fides to be considered for faculty positions as professors.


MS: There was an academic inspection at UIST few weeks ago. A few days before that inspection you said you had a private meeting with Mister S., advisor to Rector D. What did you talk about? What did he say?

ES: That is not entirely correct. I had a very short conversation with this person on the day of the inspection. I asked to talk to the inspector, but my request was denied. As I left the room, Mister S. added that both he and his wife had the intention to sue me for spreading rumours and erroneous information about them. He refused to tell me more and just added: "You will see."


MS: Why were you fired? Was that legal decision?

ES: The full extend of the information I was given is in the letter published by Fokus. It basically states three reasons:
1. I don’t have a work permit.
2. The university was not satisfied with my work.
3. My two-year contract was not deemed valid because of budget constraints.
Here are my comments:
1. Getting a work permit is the duty of the employer. Even if it was true, I could not be held accountable for this. Moreover I was told that my working permit was valid until the expiry date of my passport (i.e. April 2012 or so).
2.  I was never given any negative feedback about my work, I still am unaware of those critics. According to a previous article in Fokus, some people were fired for insufficient English skills. The interview recorded by Kanal5 showed that some classes are now held in Macedonian instead.
3. I cannot comment on the financial state of the university. My contract was signed by both parties and represent a legal obligation.