Saeima deputy says he was pressured over higher education reform

Artist and sculptor Aigars Bikše, who since last year has also been a Saeima deputy representing the Development/For! political grouping, claimed October 18 he had been put under pressure by a university rector to vote a certain way or risk damaging his academic career.

An open letter published by Bikše recounts a telephone conversation held October 15 between himself and Rector of the Latvian Academy of Arts Kristaps Zariņš. Bikše is a lecturer at the institution.

"During the conversation, the Rector informed me about the telephone request of Aigars Pētersons, Rector of Riga Stradiņš University, to influence my vote on the amendments to the Law on Higher Education Institutions, which we started to consider in the Education, Culture and Science Commission of the Saeima," Bikše recounted. 

After outlining his own and his party's contrary position, Bikše then said:  "The Rector interrupted my explanations, stating that such a position would affect my position at the Academy of Arts. I see a clear threat in the Rector's remarks - as the head of an educational institution, he has access to a wide range of administrative methods that can make my work as a lecturer untenable."
 
"I am unpleasantly surprised by my colleague's efforts to use threats to influence legislative work in the interests of a small group or some individuals. The governance of a university and any public institution must be in the interests of society as a whole - higher education cannot be a sandbox for some privileged interests," Bikše said, adding that he had a duty not to stay silent about the incident.
 
LSM asked the Latvian Academy of Arts for comment on the allegations but has yet to receive a reply. 
 
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