Academics Urge Putin to Stop Staff Cuts at Moscow State University

Moscow State University

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – November 14, 2013) A group of academics from Moscow State University has begun collecting signatures in support of an open letter it wrote asking President Vladimir Putin to halt mass dismissals at Russia’s leading university.

The letter, published on the University Solidarity website, says that the university’s administration has not received budget funds to raise employees’ salaries, despite being proffered more cash under presidential directives.

As a result, the only way the university can fulfill Putin’s recent order to increase pay at universities is by firing personnel to free up cash, the letter says.

Mikhail Lobanov, one of the letter’s authors and a lecturer at the university’s math and mechanics department, said that several dozen employees had already been dismissed and that he expects the trend to continue, Kommersant FM reported Wednesday.

The authors have decided to appeal directly to Putin because he has been a member of the university’s board of trustees since June and because the salary increases were his idea, Lobanov said.

The petitioners want Putin to stop further dismissals at the university and re-hire those who have been dismissed since June to prevent “a serious blow to science and education” in Russia.

The university’s administration has denied the reports about mass firings.

Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov responded Thursday to the accusations made in the letter, instructing state education watchdog Rosobrnadzor to get to the bottom of the situation and find out whether teachers’ rights are being violated, RIA Novosti reported.

“It’s important to look after teachers and academics who work in our universities, especially Moscow State University,” Livanov said.

However, Livanov said that the letter contained a number of serious inaccuracies and dismissed the assertion that universities hadn’t been given extra funds to facilitate the pay increases.