“I decided I would not resign voluntarily”

The country’s best professor of Italian fired from MSLU

29 October 2020, 18:14 | Zmitser Pankavets, Nasha Niva
Natallia Dulina.
Source: Nasha Niva Telegram channel

Natallia Dulina is one of those Minsk State Linguistics University (MSLU) professors who supported the strike at the university on 26 October. Three days later she received a call from the university human resources department with a request to resign voluntarily.

Natallia Dulina has been working at MSLU since 1991. She is one of the best Italian language professors in Belarus. She is greatly respected by students and faculty. In fact, Dulina has become the informal leader of the strike.

“When I got the call, I was already off the campus, so I decided not to return. Now I need to consult experts on what to do, whether there are grounds to fire me, and how to act in this situation,” Ms. Dulina said.

Later, three more MSLU professors received a similar call. Natallia Dulina said that her five-year contract expires around March. “When we were protesting in September, the former rector Natallia Baranava issued an order banning rallies on campus.”

“However, we kept gathering in front of the main building of the university, we sang songs, held flags and posters. I was reprimanded for that, and a dozen professors received warnings. To the best of my knowledge, they can fire you after two reprimands, but I only have one. Although I don’t rule out that any documents could be urgently faked now,” Dulina said.

Despite students’ attempts to initiate dialogue, there have been no negotiations with the new rector Natallia Laptsieva so far. Interestingly, the repressions currently affect only professors, whereas MSLU students have not yet been expelled.

“Several students are serving their sentences at Akrestsina and Baranavichy. We are afraid that their absence would be treated as having no valid excuse. The mother of one of my students went to see the rector to prevent her son’s expulsion. “If I say so, he will be expelled,” was the message from the rector,” Dulina said.

Several dozen professors supported the strike at MSLU. Many have chosen the work-to-rule strike rather than the classic option: lectures take place, but they discuss topics unrelated to the official syllabus. In September, when MSLU students were detained at the university, 140 professors immediately signed a petition condemning such situation as unacceptable.

“I decided that I would not resign voluntarily,” Dulina said. She likes her job and does not want to leave it.

Of course, I don’t regret my choices. What is happening now is outrageous. The logic of their decision is clear, and I have been expecting something of the kind.