Belgrade rector replaced

March 14, 1997

The rector of Belgrade University has resigned. His resignation was one of the main demands of the Student Protest 96/97 movement, which for more than 100 days had kept up street demonstrations and rallies in support of democracy.

Most Serbian academics supported the protests, which began last November after the government tried to annul the results of local elections. But Dragutin Velickovic, a former Communist, and the equally authoritarian student rector, Vojin Djurdjevic, treated the protesters as a minority of the university's 65,000 students. The protestors then demanded both men's resignation.

The government accepted the election results last month. But the students continued their protest, despite warnings that if they did not stop they would have to repeat the entire academic year.

Last week academics replaced Professor Velickovic with the deputy rector, Tomislav Dragovic. Professor Velickovic formally submitted his resignation, claiming that his "demand" that the students return to their classes had been fulfilled, and claiming that his opposition to the protests was simply that the university had not been involved in the "counting of votes" during the election.

The students reacted with predictable delight. Cedomir Antic, until recently chairman of Student Protest 96/97, said the resignation was "a moral act by a man who did not exactly behave morally".

Not all students took it so calmly. Some 15,000 picketed the Serbian presidency building, chanting to President Milosevic: "Slobo, you are next!"

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