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Regular version of the site

‘The More You Give, the More You Get’

Anita Soboleva, Associate Professor at the HSE Faculty of Law Department of the Theory of Law and Comparative Law, has been voted one of the best HSE teachers by students in 2012.

Anita Soboleva, Associate Professor at the HSE Faculty of Law Department of the Theory of Law and Comparative Law, has been voted one of the best HSE teachers by students in 2012.

— Dr. Soboleva, you’ve been working at the Higher School of Economics for five years. Did you have any teaching experience before that?

— No, I hadn’t really taught before coming to HSE, except for the large amount of training that I’d conducted for adults. My students were people from various professions, mainly judges, journalists, human rights lawyers, and the European Court’s standards experts. And Nina Belyaeva, Head of the Department of Public Policy, invited me to the Higher School of Economics when she created the master’s programme with a specialization in Human Rights and Democratic Governance.

I am a lawyer with 10 years experience and the leader of a human rights organization, ‘Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms’, which I created 10 years ago, and I also work on cases in the European Court of Human Rights.

— What does your human rights center do?

— This is an organization specializing in the court protection of people’s constitutional rights and freedoms. Ten years ago our organization was a brand new type of community with a core of professional lawyers, and court practice as the main tool for solving problems. There are still only a few such organizations in Russia. This is not a judicial office, not a public reception office; our organization does not process many cases throughout the year, but they are cases neglected by all other lawyers. I started to think about the idea of creating such an organization a long time ago, when I was an intern in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the U.S.

— You studied at the Central European University, then at the Emory University (USA). How is the Russian educational system different from European and American ones?

Today the HSE is approaching the same European standards that I experienced when I studied 15 years ago. We had a modular system of education. The modules were quite short; for example, we had two courses over two weeks, then passed our exams, then another two courses, and so on. It gave us the opportunity to be absorbed in a subject, since it is very difficult to focus when you have six or seven courses a week and you need to prepare for each of them.

— Do you see any difference between European and Russian students?

Today there are fewer and fewer differences. I read a course in English at the Department of Public Policy, and my students include both Russians and international students, but I cannot say the former study any less hard than the latter.

— You’ve written many papers dedicated to discrimination…

I headed up a team of authors when we published a 3-volume textbook on discrimination (for students) and a teacher’s book for this course. This course covers all types of discrimination; age, race, gender, religion, language and many others.

When we talk about discrimination, first of all, we mean not the lack of equal rights, since these exist in all civilized countries, but the lack of equal opportunity for their implementation. The Constitution has secured equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women, but this still doesn’t exist for other groups. A disabled person has an equal right to education, but if he can’t leave his house in his wheelchair, he has no equal opportunity to implement this right. On the other hand, there are many stereotypes related to discrimination, and we also need to fight these.

— What do you believe to be the most important thing in teaching?

The main thing is to know your subject inside out, and to have the desire to share your knowledge. The situation is like this: the more you give, the more you get. You should be ready to be generous and absorb what others give you without trying to criticize anyone. You should be ready to consider all points of view and question them in academic discussions.

Anastasia Chumak, HSE News Service

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