Serb staff stay away after third murder

December 24, 1999


The rectorate at the University of Pristina stands empty two days a week - reserved for the Serb rector and his staff, who never come. In contrast, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays the place is a hive of activity with delegations arriving from universities all over the world and meetings of the Albanian Kosovar deans and administrators.

Following the brutal murder earlier this month of Serbian professor Dragoslav Basic, an ex-Fulbright scholar who taught at Berkeley, it seems improbable that any of the Serb teaching staff will return to Pristina.

He was the third Serb academic from the university to be murdered in Kosovo since the end of the conflict. The transitional council, Kosovo's highest level advisory body, condemned the attack in which Professor Basic was shot and his wife and mother-in-law brutally assaulted by a crowd celebrating a Kosovar Albanian holiday. Bernard Kouchner, head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK) in Kosovo, laid a bouquet of flowers at the scene of the attack.

Faced with lack of security on the university campus and recent instances of students being kidnapped, the independent Albanian Kosovar student union has established a security council to cooperate with political and military organisations and provide security for the university's students. The union has accused UNMIK of unwillingness to give any financial help to the university despite levying money from the Kosovars through customs duties and car registration fees. The students claim UNMIK has deprived local Kosovar organisations of any power to combat the growing lawlessness and has carried out "brutal and incompetent interventions" into local radio stations and posts and telecommunication services.

Almost 23,000 students are said to be enrolled and most of the Albanian professors are running courses or supervising catch-up examinations. There are claims that there are still 10,000 Serb students enrolled at Pristina, but Marinkovic Miodrae, a spokesman for the Serb students, estimates less than half that number, most studying in towns on the Kosovo-Serbian border.

Serbian government policy requires that students who were studying in Pristina must go back there and may not study anywhere else. There has been some effort to run lectures at Mitrovica, but no one attends. Some grants being paid from Belgrade, are restricted to students who fought in the war. There is no free accommodation in Mitrovica and the few students who are living there, about 300 in the student accommodation, are sharing six to a room and having to pay for their beds.

Refurbishment of the Pristina campus is continuing, but in some cases very slowly. Equipment is in short supply, but gifted equipment has been getting through. The World University Service together with the British Department for International Development has funded the re-equipment of laboratories in the medical faculty to enable students to complete their studies. Some donated computers, printers and books for the English department have been delivered to the university, with more to come. A computer donated by The THES was this week shipped out for the university's student centre.

Additional reporting by Vera Rich

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