The board of trustees of Yerevan’s Brusov State University (BSU) voted to reappoint Karine Harutiunian as BSU rector on December 9. Harutiunian defeated another candidate for the post who enjoyed government support.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government reportedly tried to replace Harutiunian after she backed demonstrations staged by hundreds of students last fall in protest against government plans to merge BSU with two other state-run universities.
Deputy Prime Minister Hambardzum Matevosian, who headed the BSU board, and Education Minister Vahram Dumanian were sacked three days after the incumbent rector’s reelection. Media reports suggested that Pashinian thus punished Dumanian and Matevosian for their failure to install the government-backed candidate.
Later in December, Armenian prosecutors opened two criminal cases in connection with the BSU vote. They have not charged anyone with irregularities yet.
Meanwhile, Harutiunian took the government to court, challenging its refusal to validate her reelection.
“This is a political persecution of Ms. Harutiunian and punishment of the university,” one of her deputies, Tsolak Akopian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Thursday.
Zhanna Andreasian, the new education minister, denied that. But she did not explain the government’s apparent reluctance to accept the BSU board’s choice of the rector.
The government ratcheted up the pressure on the reelected rector earlier this week, announcing the collective resignation of half of the BSU board members, who had been appointed by it. The move led to the board’s automatic dissolution.
Andreasian told reporters that the government no longer trusted the board. She did not say why the government is now in no rush to form a new board.
The university specializing in the teaching of foreign languages thus remains in limbo, unable to pay the salaries of its 700 or so lecturers and other staff or finance any procurements.
“Without a decision of the Board of Trustees, the university administration cannot make any expenditure,” said Akopian. “The 2023 budget has to be approved first. Right now the university does not have a budget from which the salaries can be paid.”