Students at several large Bulgarian universities have shown their support for the continued anti-government protest at the St Kliment Ohridski Sofia University, staging their own “occupation” of lecture halls on October 28. At Sofia University, meanwhile, the academic council appeared to cancel classes indefinitely, for as long as the “occupation” continues.
Students at Veliko Turnovo University, Plovdiv University Paisii Hilendarski, performing arts academy Natfiz in Sofia and the private New Bulgarian University have shown their – mostly symbolic – support for the protest at Sofia University. A similar initiative at the University for National and World Economics in Sofia has been planned for October 29, according to reports in Bulgarian media.
The Sofia University administration had cancelled all classes on October 28 after the protesting students said last week that they planned to “occupy” lecture hall 272, the university’s largest, indefinitely. At the same time, the university’s academic council was scheduled to meet in order to decide how to proceed further.
In a statement posted on the university’s website, the academic council said that the “occupation is an extreme form of protest” and asked “the organisers and the participants to seek other forms of protest that would not prevent the university from carrying out its mission.”
After the meeting, university rector Ivan Ilchev said that classes will only resume after the students decided to end their “occupation”. The autumn semester would be extended to compensate for the missed classes, he said, as quoted by Focus news agency.
The university administration has so far been very ambiguous in its stance on the issue – repeatedly stating that the students had the right to a civic position, but also underscoring that the protest was disrupting classes.
On October 28, before the council’s meeting, Ilchev once again appeared to downplay the continued “occupation”, saying that it was “not the time, not the place and not the way”, as quoted by Bulgarian National Radio (BNR). He said that the protest was also getting negative connotations because “political groups” were trying to use it “to ascend to a new step in their political career.”
The council of university rectors and Education Minister Anelia Klisarova made similar statements on October 28, asking students to avoid “breaching the rights of others”, as quoted by local broadcaster Darik Radio.
Meanwhile, throughout the day, dozens of people congregated outside the university to show their support for the protesting students. After a group of “counter protesters” attempted to barge into the university on October 27, access to the university itself and its inner courtyard – otherwise routinely used as a convenient short-cut by passers-by – has been restricted to university students and staff or participants in university-planned events, as well as post-graduate applicants, BNR reported.
(Photo of banner outside Sofia University lecture hall 272: noresharski.com)