Dear HSE Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Today we find ourselves in a situation of sharply heated social conflict. To our great regret, more and more often its participants choose aggravation and mobilization over dialogue. Such appeals for the University are a trap that we must not fall into.
We have talked a lot about the fact that a real university should not be a platform for political struggle, and this is a key guarantee of academic freedom within our walls. This principle applies to universities in Russia, the USA, Italy, Germany, or Korea—it is universal and not specific to any one nation. Today I see attempts to involve HSE in politics, or to at least to divide it. ‘Are you for the criminals in power or for a beautiful future Russia?’ social media activists ask. ‘For how long will HSE continue to support the fifth column?’ we hear on conservative news outlets.
I will answer. We are for academic research and education. This is our contribution to Russia. For this we have united as a university. We believe that a university is able to unite people with a wide variety of political positions—and not only to unite, but also to offer society and the state professionally grounded, cold-headed solutions. The university is a field for cultivating public consensus, and not a zone of agitation and ‘automatic mobilization’.
I respect all members of the HSE community. I consider them talented and mature people capable of taking responsibility for their actions. Even if these actions are wrong. We have never persecuted students and teachers on the basis of their political views and beliefs, and we will never do so. Those who were arrested or fined for participating in unsanctioned protests have already been punished by a court decision. However, I would like to remind you of the internal regulations that we have adopted and that participating in political activity using the university’s resources, be it our brand or our other resources, is unacceptable. We will consistently and harshly suppress such attempts.
All of our students, employees, and teachers should be responsible for their actions outside the University. This is what the HSE administration is guided by: we consider each case within the framework of rules common to all, proceeding primarily from the interests of the educational process and research activity. The University cannot and will not ever accommodate the timing of street protests or certain civil actions, especially those beyond our existing legal framework.
As a result of the implementation of this policy, HSE is now faced with a fierce misinformation campaign by Alexei Navalny’s supporters. For the second day, HSE has received harsh threats and insults, containing foul language and various ultimatum demands. In terms of their rhetoric and aesthetics, these threats differ little from what we have received from the neo-Black Hundreds. The strategy and tactics of the Internet wars are the same no matter which side you are on. These information attacks are by no means an invitation to the respectful dialogue that we are used to conducting. This is a typical online hate, the purpose of which is to take you and me out of a state of psychological equilibrium, to provoke emotional reactions. Emotional mobilization is the very environment in which politicians can achieve their political goals. Participating in this kind of fighting will absolutely cause detriment to the University.
The University remains open. We are ready to discuss all issues, but not at a rally pulpit or in the form of abstract public campaigns aimed at raising the emotional temperature of the general public. I consider it extremely important right now to preserve the university tradition of meaningful, constructive, and calm dialogue.
The University should not be swayed by public protest, nor should it serve as an arm of state enforcement. It has its own path. Let’s stay on it. Protect our university. And stay safe.