Open election of university professors supported by Saeima deputies

Open election of university professors supported by Saeima deputies

Although representatives of Latvian universities voiced opposing opinions, on Monday, 6 July, Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee supported the practice of electing university professors openly.

On 6 July the committee reviewed amendments to the Law on Higher Education Institutions prior to second reading in the Saeima, assessing, among other things, proposals from Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee for sections of the law.

Legal Office’s proposal for the election procedure provided for electing contenders for the post of professor or associated professor by a council of a relevant industry following a review of documents needed for decision-making and discussions about contenders. This proposal stated that voting for each contender would be held openly.

Multiple industry representatives opposed holding open votes, offering instead different other options. Secretary general of the Latvian Rectors’ Council Jānis Bernāts said the vote should be closed, whereas the rector of Riga Stradins University Aigars Pētersons said higher education institutions should be allowed to pick their own method for voting.

Higher Education Council Chairman Jānis Vētra, defending closed vote system, mentioned the privacy of the academic environment.

According to him, if “someone from the side” were to run as a candidate, it would be a strong challenge for colleagues to make up their mind in an open vote.

A similar argument was used by parliamentarian Jānis Vucāns, who has experience working in the academic environment. He said in the case of votes when multiple candidates have a similar professional evaluation, subjective assessment plays a major role. An open vote could potentially create an ‘unhealthy situation’ in the higher education environment. However, he urged including in the legislative draft a regulation that would allow universities to pick their own form of voting.

Saeima deputy Marija Golubeva insisted that, considering Latvia’s small academic environment, the vote should be open to provide at least minimal competition.

In the vote deputies supported the proposal from Saeima’s Legal Affairs Office on an open vote.

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