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#21 - JRL 8412 - JRL Home
Subject: Open Letter to Lukashenko on European Humanities University closure
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004
From: "John Slocum" <JSlocum@MACFOUND.ORG>

Mr. Alexander Lukashenko
October 11, 2004
President, Republic of Belarus

Ul. Kirova, 15
Minsk 220050
Republic of Belarus

Dear President Lukashenko,

Since late 2003, the European Humanities University (EHU), a non-governmental institution of higher education situated in Minsk, has been subject to administrative pressure from the Government of Belarus including a demand for the resignation of the Universitys founding Rector, Anatoly Mikhailov. In late July of this year, with the revocation of the Universitys lease and the subsequent withdrawal of its license, the Government effectively forced the closure of the EHU.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, an independent philanthropic organization based in Chicago, has been providing financial support to the EHU since 1997. The Foundation supports the University, along with a number of state and private universities in neighboring Russia, because we believe in the enormous talent and potential of the regions young people, and we are dedicated to the proposition that strong democratic societies require strong universities and other centers of scholarly excellence. Moreover, we believe that a countrys university sector is best served by a mix of both state and private institutions. We put this belief into practice through support for research and education in many other countries around the world, and in the United States as well.

The European Humanities University has played a special role in strengthening Belarusian society by reinforcing the highest European and international standards of higher education, conducted in an atmosphere of open inquiry and humanitarian values. We are deeply distressed by the forced closure of the EHU, which deprives some one thousand current and incoming EHU students and untold number of future student cohorts of a unique and outstanding educational experience. It is not only the students that will suffer, but all of Belarus: openness to international scholarly influences and vibrant universities are vital sources of social and economic strength.

The MacArthur Foundation remains committed to fostering the important mission of EHU in whatever form may be necessary or appropriate. We will work together with other friends and supporters of the University in Europe and the United States to try and find the means to promote that mission so the students will have an opportunity to learn.

In doing so, we affirm our agreement with Jan Petersen, Chairman of the Council of Europes Committee of Ministers, who stated on August 5 that the closure of the EHU represents a violation of the basic principles of the European Cultural Convention, to which Belarus is a signatory. And we send a message of support to the students, teachers and administrative staff of EHU: they are not forgotten.

We urge the Government of Belarus to reconsider its decision to close the EHU.

Sincerely,

Jonathan F. Fanton
President
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation