22 September 2020, 11:50 | Anya Perova, TUT.BY
Over the weekend, the “Peaceful BSUIR” Telegram channel published a photo of a student’s examination record book, in which a grade of ten [the highest grade in Belarus – Translator’s note] had been changed in another pen to a four. The authors of this post claim that such a situation is not an isolated one – the whole group was affected. According to the students, the lecturer had “changed his mind” and refused to give them good grades due to the political views of his students. TUT.BY listened to the students’ opinion and learned about the university’s position concerning this situation.
Students’ opinion: “The actions of the lecturer contradict the position of the university”
We contacted Kristina, a 3rd-year student at the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics (BSUIR). The situation affected all 3rd-year students who study at the Department of Information Technology Software in the Faculty of Computer Systems and Networks.
“First, it’s worth mentioning why this situation arose at all. Due to COVID-19, the examination for ‘Object-Oriented Programming’, which was taught by Kirill Andreevich Surkov, was conducted remotely. Therefore, it was not possible to put marks into the examination record books,” explains the student. “The lecturer told us that they would do it in September, but the register with the grades for the examination was submitted on time. This means that in the university database, everyone has the grades they received (i.e. unchanged grades – TUT.BY).”
When September came and the new semester began, Kirill Surkov asked the group monitors to put the grades into the examination books themselves so he could quickly sign them.
“That is why there are ‘four’s written in black pen in our examination books now, written over the grades we had already received that are in the registers.”
The student admits: the situation had been brewing even before the start of the academic year.
“Kirill Andreevich has accounts on social networks which make it quite easy to understand his position concerning what is happening in the country. I would like to emphasize that we students respect his personal space and legal rights and do not want them to be violated, just like with any other citizen of the Republic of Belarus.”
“The first lecture went smoothly,” continues Kristina. “But when there were five minutes left, Kirill Andreevich decided to speak out. We were not surprised because we already knew his position thanks to social media. Half of the students decided to debate him, but when it became clear that this was hopeless, half of the guys walked out of the room.”
The conflict continued to escalate: peaceful actions in support of detainees took place in many universities.
“Students were seated in white-red-white fashion during lectures (i.e. they came wearing red and white clothes and sat down in the arrangement of the national flag’s colors – TUT.BY). In our university, such actions first took place on 7-8 September, but none of the students from my stream of study took part. But on 9 September, we had two lectures scheduled, one of which would be given by Kirill Andreevich. We decided to organize this action that day for a number of several reasons. The main one is that if there is an opportunity to hold it here and now, then it must be done, and not sometime later.”
A week later, on 16 September, Kristina’s stream had a lecture by Kirill Surkov on their schedule again.
“He conducted it as usual; there were no political statements,” admits the girl. “At the end of the lecture, the monitors asked about the examination books and tried to resolve the issue: Kirill Andreevich had to sign them, after all. But at the end of the lecture, he said something like this: ‘Who was your protest targeted against? Against me. Right? You are against the falsification of the elections – and I will be against the falsification of your laboratory work. Therefore, the grades for the examination are annulled – I give everyone a four.’”
Kristina says that at first, everything that had happened seemed like a joke. But on 18 September, Surkov gave a lecture again, after which he finally gathered all the examination books to sign them.
“He gave the examination books back only the next day, though it was agreed that he would return them immediately, on 18 September. Some of the students might have been retaking their examinations that day. But this is trivial,” notes Kristina. “It was then that we discovered that the whole stream had been given fours.”
Students (we anonymously contacted several other students from the “Peaceful BSUIR” community) recall the announcement of the rector Vadim Bogush, in which it is written: “Dear friends, I sincerely ask you to refrain, no matter how reluctant you are, from any actions that might damage the reputation of the university, sully its name or involve it in political games.”
“The actions of Kirill Andreevich clearly contravene what has been said in this announcement,” says Kristina. “We did not express our political views during lectures in any way save for the one-time action in support of detainees, including those who study at our university and are in our stream. We do not shout any slogans, do not organize provocations. And some of the stream is completely apolitical: they did not even take part in this one-time action. But everyone was indiscriminately, if I may say so, ‘repressed’.”
The head of the department states: “The administration guarantees that the marks are still valid. But there is a nuance.”
Kirill Surkov has not responded to the message of a TUT.BY journalist yet. As soon as he does, we will be ready to publish his opinion. However, the students reported to the TUT.BY editorial office that on the morning of 22 September, a meeting with the head of the Department of Information Technology Software, Natalia Lapitskaya, would take place. Our journalist was also there: the meeting was open.
“In order to change the results of examinations, only one thing is required – the violation of the examination-taking procedure, which must be proven. At the moment, the examination was passed by all who did so. Grades were given and the scholarship committee made decisions accordingly. No other actions, apart from the decision of the university council which has the right to annul the results of examinations, can do so,” explained the head of the department.
After that, Natalia Lapitskaya asked the assembled students to raise their hands if they had personally seen the changed grade in their own examination book. Then she stated: five people. Thereafter, she added:
“The grades in the examination books of these students specifically […] were changed in violation of the rules for making changes. The examination book is not a duplicate document, but nonetheless, changes in it must be made according to the rules. These rules […] have been violated.”
Thus, Natalia Lapitskaya reassured: these changes are not valid in any way. To be more precise, they would not be valid, had it not been for another problem:
“Due to the way the information was presented by journalists (in reference to the publication on the dev.by internet portal dated 21 September – TUT.BY), the legitimacy and the legality of the examination organization process has been questioned. Therefore, the administration will decide the validity of the examination results. […] And now, the press is discussing all of this and demands some kind of action.”
The head of the department also noted that, unfortunately, some of the information given by the press does not correspond with reality. Lapitskaya said that, in fact, for day classes, the examination was organized face-to-face. Only preliminary discussions and preliminary assessments of knowledge were organized remotely in order to comply with sanitary and epidemiological standards.
“The press, according to students, reports that the examination was held remotely, which means there were violations of the examination organization regulations. Consequently, the grades can be called into question.”
After that, Natalia Lapitskaya asked the students whether it was worth making such impulsive decisions and contacting the press. She emphasized: the guarantee of the BSUIR administration is that all the grades given remain valid, provided that the administration manages to defend them and prove that the examination was passed in accordance with requirements and without violations.
At the end of the meeting, the head of the department also emphasized that after everything that has happened, Kirill Andreevich Surkov may refuse to cooperate with the university and it will not be easy to find a new lecturer: the staffing situation is extremely complicated. As for the true political views of Lapitskaya and Surkov, the students do not know anything about them.
And lecturers do not pay attention to the civic position of the students themselves.