In the former Augustinian monastery, EHU gathered representatives of the academic community to discuss the problem of restriction of the freedom of actions faced by researchers and universities around the world. Within the framework of the round table, the questions of values of free academia and formation of personal civil position, the contribution of the members of free academia in the democratic development of the society, along with the reasons of suppression of freethinking by governments were raised.
After the welcoming speech of the President of EHU Prof. Anatoly Mikhailov, the President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Dr. Jonathan Fanton delivered a speech about the threats of independent academy to the participants and guests of the round table.
In his opinion, free academic activity plays a critical role in the well-being of society, what is the reason for support of scientists and universities whose research independence is under threat. Dr. Fanton also noted the outstanding role of EHU in the formation of a democratic civil society in Belarus and the high results of the EHU in the development of its own research centers. Dr. Fanton emphasized, that the world-renowned New School of Social Research in New York, where he served as President from 1982 till 1999, was also established as a “university in exile”, and the activities of its community made an invaluable contribution to the development of the Western academic community. From this perspective, according to Dr. Fanton, it is important to contribute to the development of the EHU: “We must redouble our effort to ensure that EHU achieves a strong and stable foundation”.
Within the framework of the panel discussion, the the reasons of aggression by repressive political regimes and of the role of critical thinking and independent research of the social tensions that occur in post-totalitarian communities were discussed. The discussion was conducted among Anne Lonsdale (Chair of the Council for At-Risk Academics), Susan H. Gillespie (Vice President of the Bard College), Dr. Konrad Schily (Founder of the Witten/Herdecke University), the Chair of the Lithuanian Union of Journalists Dainius Radzevičius and the President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Dr. Jonathan F. Fanton. The outcomes of the discussion were summed up by the second-year “Media and Communication” undergraduate student Maryia Stsiopkina.
After the panel discussion, the participants and guests of the round table were invited to the performance of the theatrical workshop of EHU, acting under the guidance of the lecturer of the EHU Department of Humanities and Arts Ervinas Koršunovas. The student theatrical performance “Waiting for Monelle” was based on the works of Samuel Beckett “Waiting for Godot” and Marcel Schwab “The Book of Monelle”.
At the end of the round table, Dr. Jonathan Fanton was awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa degree.