Student activist barred

December 2, 2005

A Belarussian university faces European sanctions after it expelled a student for attending an international conference.

Taciana Khoma, a student at the Belarussian State Economic University (BSEU) in Minsk, was also evicted from her hostel. The incident occurred two days after she was elected a member of the governing council of the National Unions of Students in Europe - the ESIB, an umbrella organisation of student unions.

Officially, she was disciplined for absenting herself for three days (at a weekend) without leave to attend the meeting in Paris. Pro rector Siarhiey Shauruk said this constituted "an open lack of respect for the BSEU as an organisation that bears juridical and moral responsibility for the safety of students".

But a Belarussian student website claimed that university staff had said, unofficially, that the expulsion was on direct instructions from the Ministry of Education because Ms Khoma had been elected to the ESIB board.

Leif Pagrotsky, Sweden's Minister for Education and Research, urged Vladimir Shimov, BSEU rector, to reinstate Ms Khoma. "To expel a student because she has travelled abroad and been elected to the executive of the ESIB is in violation of basic democratic principles," he wrote.

The ESIB is urging education ministers and national rectors' conferences to write letters demanding Ms Khoma's reinstatement. It has contacted Western universities with BSEU partnership schemes to ask them to suspend links and urged the European Association of Universities to cease co-operation with the BSEU.

Georg Winkler, president of the EUA, has appealed to the university to reconsider its stance. If the it fails to reinstate the student, it will face expulsion from the EUA.

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