With SBU, I see paradoxical opportunities

20 November 2010, 15:01 | Society-digest | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Borys Gudziak

"KyivPost", Nov. 9 2010

In the Gospels, in judo, and in progressive business theory lies one general insight: a weakness, an opponent's attack, or a situational peril can be turned into a virtuous strength, an effective defense, or unique opportunity.

In Adrian Slywotsky’s book “The Upside,” whose Ukrainian translation was recently published by the Lviv Business School of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), onefinds analogies with the Bible. Considered one of the world's top 50 business consultants, Slywotsky argues that conditions of danger and regions of risk for a business can offer distinct opportunities for growth and development. St. Paul develops a whole theology around the idea that where we are weak the strength of God can become manifest.

I would like to apply this perspective reflected in many fields and schools of wisdom to the challenges faced by our university in today's political climate. In May of this year UCU was confronted by the Security Service of Ukraine. We were warned about the consequences of the “potentially illegal” civic activity of our students.

For UCU this was and remains a predicament of risk and relative weakness. With a small student body and a miniscule budget, UCU is a tiny institution. In the words of Stalin “it has no divisions.” The SBU is the institution of power in Ukraine par excellence inspiring an aura of dread and anxiety. And yet, in the recent interaction with the evident risks I see paradoxical opportunities.

The SBU attempt to intimidate and to discourage an academic community, especially students, in participating actively in social discourse or public protest has inspired vivacious international discussion. The entire UCU community has been bolstered by the support of simple people on the street, students and young faculty (if not always top university administrators). We are moved by the solidarity of a broad network of international leaders and grassroots civic activists. The warm encouragement of Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his visit to our university on October 26 was just the most recent example.

UCUs position regarding the SBU is being carefully analyzed from different points of view: the Ukrainian and global academic world, communities of faith, structures of state power, business anddiplomatic circles. There are voices or rather silences that indicate to us that we should be quiet and stick to teaching within the walls of the university. Others have publicly argued that UCU’s civic stand is pseudo heroic. Some commentators consider that our willingness to engage into discussion with Valery Khoroshkovsky, the head of the SBU, is utterly naive.

A few weeks ago, the SBU proposed signing an agreement with the UCU that would allow our student and researchers to have access to SBU archives. According many it is impossible to have any relations with the SBU and maintain a moral position.

It is difficult today to gage all of the fault lines and boundaries that should or shouldn’t be trespassed not only by UCU but by any other organization or individual that wants to make a difference in Ukrainian society. One thing for sure will help all of us in this discernment – openness and transparency, and acting in a non-aggressive but principled way.

For this reason we will continue to make UCU policies public. We invite constructive criticism. It is very important for us to do the right thing and we very much welcome debate and advice.

UCU does not want to lose the opportunities presented by the risks and dangers that have emerged and become prominent in Ukrainian society. We are aware that diverse Ukrainian and international constituencies have a stock in the freedom and quality of higher education in Ukraine. We don’t want to step back from a vocation to be present in the public square. We seek to safeguard principles and at the same time remain constructive.

The most important challenge for Ukrainian society, for higher education, and for every individual citizen is to become free of the yoke of fear. A stance of trust can be naïve, but it also can be a reflection of quiet confidence, strength, and an undiluted desire to witness.

UCU welcomed the visit of Khoroshkovsky in June during which our community was able to present itself and its positions. We were also recently able to do so with Prime Minister Harper.

In the coming weeks I look forward to a continuation of the civic discussion in the press and in personal and public encounters. May we all be authentic and fearless in our civic discourse and may we be the better for it.

Borys Gudziak is the rector of the private Ukrainian Catholic University with nearly 1,000 students in Lviv. In mid-year 2010, Gudziak created a sensation when he went public with a statement about the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, harassing his university. A representative of the SBU, the successor agency in Ukraine to the Soviet KGB, wanted the rector to warn his students that participation in peaceful protests and demonstrations will be prosecuted. International journalists and pundits were alarmed by this case and interpreted it as a shift back to the totalitarian under President Viktor Yanukovych, who took power on Feb. 25.

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    • bopa | 8 June 2020, 11:43

      То перераховані факти ви називаєте "фантазиями и ночными кошмарами"? Чому викладену інформацію ви "Очередная статья нижайшего интеллектуального уровня"? У вас

    • Slava43 | 4 June 2020, 13:46

      Це жодна агітація. На Буковині казали :»Мойше герехт, Сури герехт».

    • Slava43 | 4 June 2020, 13:39

      За часів союза, УПЦ підлягала моіковському патріярхату, примусово. Від незалежності УПЦ старалась отримати незалежність від Москви. Тепер, коли Україна має ТОМОС та незалежність то Лавру потрібно

    • Стефан | 2 June 2020, 15:54

      Последние события показали глубокий кризис РПЦ МП, где только отдельные редкие священнослужители твёрдо исповедуют Православную Веру, как схиигумен отец Сергий Романов, которого сейчас травят

    • Рокитне | 2 June 2020, 12:34

      Це добре було б.

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