English version of the Interview published by the Moscow-German Newspaper on 20the of December 2018
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Jörn Haese will now help Russian students to better fight for their rights
Many Germans who live in Russia dont really fully submerge in their environment. They live separately, earn separately and share their everyday worries rather with other expats than with the locals. And then there is Jörn Haese. The 48-year-old from the suburbs of Berlin has not been studying only at a provincial university in Russia since 2014, no, in full swing and with all the joys and sorrows he also lives a very Russian-like student life. No other interview in the MDZ has hit such waves this year as Haese’s from February.
How has he been since?
Mr Haese, let us briefly recapitulate: you first studied economics and later foreign languages at the University of Orjol, and repeatedly called with criticism and suggestions for improvements, from study-programs all the way to the conditions in the student dormitory. In the summer of 2017, the university based on farfetched so-called formal reasons simply expelled you. You also had to leave Russia within a period of three days.
Now you are a student again?
Since September I study English and French in the second year at the faculty of foreign languages. But it was a roller coaster ride. Not only did I have many restless nights, but I also lost a whole academic year. The 20,000 rubles as compensation, which the court had awarded me, are merely a drop in the ocean. We had applied for 100,000 rubles.
Have all disputes been settled?
Not yet. The university just recently wanted me to pay 80 000 rubles (roughly 1000 euros) as tuition fee for the previous academic year, despite the fact that due to their mistakes I was prevented from participating. As for my part, I will soon claim around 7000 euros, that is for the legal fees and compensation for costs I had due to the unjustified expel.
How have you been welcomed-back by the management of the university?
Cold. But I heard that quite a few champagne corks popped, when various teachers, deans and students heard about the Courts decision on the 13th November 2017. They were happy that at least somebody had the guts and the perseverance to resist and to fight all the way through.
Until your unjustified expel, you constantly complained about the sanitary conditions in the dormitory and even demanded a response from the Ministry of Education in Moscow. Where do you live today?
I am staying currently with friends not far from Orjol. The University did not allow me to move back into my old room which I had decorated and had even built my own furnitures. Instead I was given a room to share at the dormitory for usually only Russian students, one of the best amongst all so I was told, but the conditions there were even worse compared to what I had before.
Well-known Russian media such as the Internet newspaper Lenta.ru and the television station “Doschd” have become aware of you in the last twelve months. Was it helpful in respect to your fight and struggle and to be listened to at the university?
Nobody ever officially approached me. Sometimes I get recognized in the street, but that’s all.
Could it be possible that the University, maybe behind closed doors, dealt with your criticism and suggestions?
I recently checked the study program for students at the faculty of economics. We had a lot of general education in the first year of our studies: culture, philosophy, history, even sports (theory in the lecture room) and civil defense. Now there are already more program-specific subjects. Maybe I gave some food for thoughts, who knows. But I was really taken by surprise when I recently visited the old dormitory where I lived for 3 years. It has been renovated six months ago: new bathtubs, new sinks, new linoleum, new kitchen furniture. And almost all the corridors were painted.
Do you have the impression that something is also changing in the minds of the students?
I have not noticed anything like that yet. The students still do not show how important they really are, and they still do not fight for their rights. Until today they have failed to understand what it means to have a precedent. And this is related to the mentality of the people, to a very authoritarian style of education. Most people are afraid of making a decision and will rather wait until a decision is made at the top. They are afraid of questioning everything in their environment, and for a 17, 18 or 19 year old student they are by far not as rebellious as their colleague-students in Europe for example. Let us not forget that the student in the Russian educational system is suffering due to the lack of necessary objectivity and independence.
What do you mean by saying that?
Over the years, the students and teachers build-up a very friendly and harmonious relationship. And this is because the same teacher that lectures throughout the semester also takes the exams, knowing how much the given grades will impact on the grant the students later receives.
As we know you, you most probably intend to interfere in the future?
Yes. I want to set up a foundation to help students who are in a similar situation or conflict with their university like me. In case of an expel they can contact us. The individual circumstances will be checked by my lawyer, and if he finds that there is no fault at the students side, then we will take over the case, if the student wishes us to defend him in Court. All over Russia. Because a lawsuit costs money that students usually do not have.
And where do you want to get the money from?
First of all, out of my own pockets, but I hope that others will also contribute at some point.
The interview was conducted by Tino Künzel.