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Adventures in Macedonia–Status of July 2013 July 29, 2013

Posted by etschneider in Students, Teaching.
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Here we are for the current status of the case opposing the second rector of the UIS&T of Ohrid, one of his advisors at the time of the facts and me.

The case was brought to justice by my lawyer Vladimir Danailov by the end of October 2011, more or less one month and the half after my dismissal.

Blind Justice by Einar Einarsson Kvaran, CC, Colby County Courthouse, Memphis, USA, Sculptor J. Massy Rhind according to Wikimedia

Let’s say that the whole process seems to take time, one might expect that kind of case to be proceeded in couple of months, but now, after twenty months, it did not advance a bit.

What did happen?

  • The teaching assistants went seeking the journalist Miroslava Simonovska to reveal the case. The journalist reported the case, from the information given by the teaching assistants;
  • Someone (nor my British colleague or me) published online videos of the Skype meeting we got with the Macedonian ministers;
  • Meanwhile, the Macedonian minister for Education (Mr. Pance Kralev at that time), and the Macedonian minister for Information Society (Mr. Ivo Ivanovski) met the French and British embassies representatives. The Macedonian ministers said that they didn’t want a public exposure. But the first article (from the teaching assistants side) was being published;
  • The minister Ivo Ivanovski called me that everything was settled and that the British colleague and I would get a new contract if we wouldn’t do any trouble. As for the American colleague, this was another case. I told him that because of what happened, they could start the same thing;
  • I met with the French ambassador, who told me that they cannot interfere but they will watch the case and its development. In January 2013 a new French ambassador was nominated for the Skopje post;
  • In October 2011, Professor Peter Bock from George Washington University gave an interview to Miroslava Simonovska;
  • In late Fall 2011, I gave an interview to Miroslava Simonovka, after having postponed it since September 2011;
  • My British colleague gave up his academic career because he wants to live in Macedonia. If I am not wrong he never received any dismissal letter;
  • Our American colleague passed away;
  • It seems that the plagiarism cases (at least three of them) are “filed”, despite proofs. Some of the plagiarized academics tried to face the plagiarisers and it was often said “it is an error” or “the printed (or online) version is not the intended version”.
  • The expenses of our airplane tickets were paid during Summer 2012;
  • The rector, who dismissed me, is not anymore in function at the UIS&T since end of Summer 2012;
  • The expenses of our moving, as of the 29th of July 2013, have still NOT been paid, but “it’s on its way
  • A lot of things are still happening at the UIS&T (among them “hacking”, “illegal position”, etc.). But since I am not there any more the information are on the hearsay level.

On the Justice side:

  • The case of the teaching assistants was denied because of lack of consistency in early 2012;
  • Our case was declared “valid” by the Ohrid court during Summer 2012;
  • A first preliminary hearing was supposed to took place during Spring 2013. My lawyer went to Ohrid, unfortunately the hearing was postponed because the prosecutor was not there and the judge was ill. It was postponed to June 2013;
  • The June hearing was postponed in advance this time, to July 2013;
  • The July hearing was obliged to be postponed to September or October 2013. This time because of “improper delivery”: the rector, who dismissed me, was not able to be reached by the Police to get his invitation for the hearing. His advisor, who was also invited to the hearing, was not found at his address, so the invitation could not be delivered.

That’s all for now. Let’s hope it would be settled soon fairly and properly.


Here are the links to the four parts of the interview:


Adventures in Macedonia (Part IV) June 17, 2013

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Before concluding, here is the last part of the interview given to Miss Miroslava Simonevska. Please note that for the latest news, one would have to wait the conclusion.

And keep in mind that the following has been written in late 2011.

As for now, I see two more posts about this ethic/judicial case: one will be the current situation in 2013, and the last one would be the conclusion, i.e. what would happen at the court.

Miroslava Simonovska (MS): Explain what happened during the meetings with the government officials. Whom did you meet? What did they say?

Etienne Schneider (ES): There were two meetings with the Macedonian officials. The first one I have already described. As for the second one, people all over the world may have watched that very meeting in the videos posted on YouTube the next day (which, incidentally, were recorded without the knowledge or permission of my colleagues and me). In addition to the two foreign professors, Minister Ivanovski and Minister Kralev (2013-05-28: he was appointed as advisor for educational issues to the Macedonian’s Prime Minister’s cabinet) were both present and the other American professor was also present via Skype. They asked us to explain the case, what happened to the threatening letters sent to the Teaching Assistants by the University administration, and my dismissal. They looked amazed and surprised.
We then showed them the pièce de résistance: several examples of the flagrant and repeated plagiarism committed by the Rector and Vice-Rector (and other authors). As presented in the videos, the Rector and Vice-Rector got their positions and/or promotions based, at least partly, on the plagiarized work of other scientists.
To be absolutely clear, plagiarism is “the unacknowledged use of someone else’s work. The word comes from a Latin word for ‘kidnapping’ and plagiarism is indeed the stealing of something engendered by someone else.” (S. Barnet & H. Bedau, Critical Thinking, Reading and Writing: A Brief Guide to Argument, 2nd Edition, Boston, Bedford, 1996.)
After seeing several indisputable proofs of plagiarism, the Ministers actually asked us if we were nonetheless ready to go back and work with the current administration. Going back would imply that we approved of everything the administration has done, including their repeated acts of plagiarism.

MS: Tell us more about the current relationship you have with UIST. Who are you suing and why?

ES: I will let my lawyer reply to this question.

MS: Please add anything you would like that you think I have forgotten to ask.

ES: Before working in Macedonia, I worked in Germany and in Malaysia. My working language is English. I don’t speak English as an Englishman: I am French and I have a French accent. But I am told that, nonetheless, my English is fluent.
Much more importantly, I am shocked and angry that, even when presented with indisputable proof of repeated and massive plagiarism, nothing is happening to punish the academicians who have committed this serious and inexcusable breach of academic ethics. In Germany and in France professors found guilty of plagiarism are forced to resign, and in America they are instantly fired. Their academic careers are over. In universities, students who plagiarize are severely reprimanded on the first violation, and immediately dismissed if repeated.
I have been told that as long as the Macedonian Minister of Education doesn’t declare something as plagiarized, then it is not plagiarism. From what Professor Bock said to me, when we discussed "that is not the rule of law, which is a solid prerequisite of a democracy. It is clear evidence of systemic corruption and cronyism in the academic community, and a severe condemnation of Macedonian government oversight of their state academic institutions."
Professor Bock also added, and anyone would agree: "Finally, it is, of course, the students who are the real victims of this sham. The intellects of the young people are surely the most valuable resource of any country. Yet it is these students whose education is being trampled, whose intellects are being exploited and abused, and whose value systems are being twisted by the self-propagating process of academic cronyism and corruption.
It is an outrage. Shame!"

Adventures in Macedonia (Part III) April 18, 2013

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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

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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.

Adventures in Macedonia (Part I) March 25, 2013

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A long time ago, on this blog, Dark clouds over Ohrid I mentioned that I would like to talk about a difficult subject which happened to me while I was working in Macedonia, a work- and academic- life-related topic. I will try to stick to the facts and will try to remain objective as much as possible.

It will be spread on several posts, and it will be based on an interview I gave to a “Macedonian political magazine” named Fokus. Miroslava Simonovska was the journalist, who interviewed me. To structure this series of posts, I will follow the questions she asked me.

In the last post of the series, I will mention the current outcome of the situation. A lot of things happened in Ohrid, Macedonia, during February 2013, and March 2013. Thanks to Jake Grafton for suggestions.

From February 2007 to August 2010 I worked as a Senior Lecturer at the Universiti Teknologi Petronas in Malaysia and decided to come back to Europe for personal reasons. I found the project of the University for Information Science & Technology in Ohrid great and ambitious and decided I wanted to be part of it.

When I signed, I knew that my tasks and responsibilities would go beyond that of an ordinary Senior Lecturer. I would partake into set up a brand new university (the university was one year old when I arrived in September 2010). The idea of being able to participate in designing a new curriculum (according to the Bologna Process and using the ECTS) and having a say in forging such a challenging environment were decisive in me coming to Macedonia.

Back in Germany, my research was oriented on Middleware for Embedded Systems. In Malaysia, a colleague of mine convinced me to work on a plagiarism detection system, unfortunately, since he was the principal investigator, the project went with him when he left the university, though I am quite sure, it could have been a successful project. For a while, I have the idea to reorient my research toward Game Development and some of its subdomains and saw the birth of a new university as an opportunity to achieve this goal. I decided to focus on the urgent matter first (i.e. building the university), and then, if my contract was renewed, to concentrate on my game development research and building a game development lab.

In April 2011, my contract was renewed for two years by the first rector and he agreed for my GameDev projects. The rector S. proposed me to act as pro-rector for academic affairs and I agreed. When the new rector D. came visiting the university one month before taking office, I was introduced to him as pro-rector, even if it was not in black-on-white. Everything was on tracks… In September of the same year, the situation drastically changed. This was the reason for the interview.

The Interview


Miroslava Simonovska (MS): What is the issue between you and the University for Information Science and Technology (UIST) in Ohrid?
Etienne Schneider (ES): The issue is that I was dismissed without notice and not given any hint or warning that my performance or behaviour might have been unsatisfactory.

I was hired to start in September 2010 under the administration of the rector Professor S. In July 2011, the administration changed and Professor D. took over the lead of the university. 
When I returned to work after the summer break in August 2011, I pursued my duties as assistant professor and as acting vice-rector for academic affairs as appointed, by the rector S. I assumed that role would continue with the new administration until informed otherwise. 
At the end of August 2011, the new university administration threatened to fire some of the teaching assistants because they had not returned to the university for the beginning of the semester in September 2011. These assistants had been granted paid leaves-of-absence to finish their doctoral research by the University Senate. That decision of the new administration was in contradiction with the decision of the Senate, and no one was informed about this last-minute change of policy.

On September 1st 2011, the new Rector D., called a meeting of the University Senate to – among other actions – vote the inclusion of some new members to the University Senate. At that early date, as members of the Senate, only four of the five foreign professors had returned to Ohrid, me included: an American, two Britons and I. Another was still abroad. One of the British professors, although already present in Ohrid at the University at that time, was not invited to join the meeting. Also present at the meeting were the other British professor J., and Z. the only Macedonian professor employed by the university at that time, and the student who presided the Student Body. And of course, the rector.

The other British professor was denied attendance to the meeting because his contract was signed by the previous rector S. We informed the new Rector D. that all the contracts of all the foreign professors had been so signed. The fact that all other foreign professors’ contracts also were signed by the rector S. was dismissed. No further explanation was offered.

The meeting was surreal. We suggested the votes to be postponed until the two missing foreign professors could attend. The suggestion was rejected: we were told that it was urgent that we accept new members to the Senate, despite the direct violation of the University statutes concerning quorum. Additionally, two of the three members to be added were married, which is forbidden by Macedonian Laws.

We told so to the rector and then he directly decided to nominate a commission to verify if new Senate members could be elected to the Senate at any time. This commission was to be composed of the British professor – J., the student, President of the Student Body, and the Rector himself. After a break, that commission returned and stated that there was no problem in adding new members to the Senate.

The vote on the motion to establish R, the now vice-rector as a new member was taken. The Rector D., the British professor – J., and the student voted in favour of the proposed member, while the Macedonian professor Z., the American professor and I abstained. The Rector D. declared the vote as valid, but several members stated that it was not valid because, by University rules, members could only be added be a “clear majority,” and only 50% had voted in favour.

S, one of the other two – not yet elected – suggested members, and husband of the newly appointed senator asked if any of the current Senate members were illegally working at the university. The person acting as a general secretary said that only the American professor was not eligible for working at the university because he had not provided a copy of his PhD diploma. This fact was lengthily contested by the professor who finally agreed to produce another copy by the beginning of the next week, September 5th. The Rector D. agreed, but the American Professor was asked to leave the meeting nonetheless.

The senate meeting continued, and the remaining two members of the Senate were elected. Each vote was supported by the member added to the Senate during the previous vote. Throughout these suspicious elections, the Macedonian professor Z. and I abstained.

On the day after this meeting/election (Friday, September 2nd 2011), the American professor was fired by email. The following Monday (September 5th) S the advisor to the Rector (husband of the newly appointed Vice-Rector) told the British professor, whose participation to the meeting was refused due to his contract having being signed by the previous Rector S. and his contract being a two year contract, that he was fired. He never received any written confirmation about his dismissal.

After these events, Mr. Pance Kralev, Minister of Education asked to meet the rector, one Macedonian Professor and one foreign Professor, so the Macedonian professor and I proposed ourselves to meet him. The persons he met were the rector, his advisor – i.e. husband of the, at that time, vice-rector and one of the foreign professors that had not been fired. The Macedonian Professor and I were also received after this meeting. The Minister listened to us politely and apologized to us for having made a mistake. It is only after the meeting that we learned that the other meeting – with the rector, the advisor of the rector and the second British professor (the not dismissed one) – had taken place.

On Thursday, September 15th, the Opening Ceremony of the University was held… but in the Macedonian language, bypassing the law voted in 2008 to set English as the official language of the university and all the previous Opening Ceremonies were held in English.

On September 19th, on the 18th days of my new contract, I received a letter that letter terminated my newly signed two-year contract for the 2011-2013 academic years. This contract had been mutually agreed to and signed in good faith by the previous Rector Professor S. in April 2011. The letter of dismissal was then published in Fokus on Friday, October 7th

This is the end of the first part.

Some little interludes February 7, 2012

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Couple of weeks ago, I saved room between two of my posts (here), but after second thought and since the topic is quite sensitive, I will write about that topic in a normal timeline post, i.e. no need to go back to a previous topic.

On the other hand and on a lighter topic (much lighter in fact), in the next coming weeks I will make several posts about the experience I have with a Windows Phone 7.5 phone, the Nokia’s Lumia 800. Why several posts? Let’s say that I have the opportunity to try it for around 20 days, and at the end I am maybe able to win one. But I do not want to publish posts just for the sake of publishing, I would like also to try to present that phone as a day-to-day usage point of view, with bad things and hopefully good things too.