About a hundred students of a state-run university in Yerevan boycotted classes on Thursday in continuing protests against the controversial dismissal of their rector Suren Zolian.
The protesting students rallied outside Yerevan State Linguistic University and then marched to the main government building. They said they boycott will continue until Zolian is reinstated.
Zolian, who has run the university since 1997, was sacked last week in a bitter dispute with Education Minister Armen Ashotian. He is refusing to comply with Ashotian’s decision and planning to challenge it in court.
The decision sparked last week angry protests by hundreds of students. Some of them opted for the boycott after one of Ashotian’s deputies introduced a new acting rector to the university staff on Wednesday.
“We decided yesterday to stage a boycott because our rights were violated,” one female student told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Some university professors urged the protesters to end the defiant action. “Go to classes and then do what you want,” one of them said.
Zolian, who continues to occupy his office and consider himself rector, emerged from the university building to make a similar appeal to the protesting students. But they ignored the call.
“That’s his obligation as rector,” one of the boycott organizers said. “We respect the request but we have a job to do among students.”
Gayane Gasparian, the acting rector appointed by Ashotian, downplayed the extraordinary action, saying that only a small minority of the students are involved in it. “I don’t consider that a boycott,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Classes are going on as usual.”
Hasmik Apian, chairwoman of the university’s student council, also disapproved of the boycott. “The student council did not take part in the protest because rallies and demonstrations don’t solve issues,” she said. “There are more civilized options.”