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Suzana Milevska // VIS VERITAS OBSES (2)

April 24, 2015

For more background into this case please read: Suzana Milevska // VIS VERITAS OBSES (Truth Is the Hostage of Force)

Dear Colleagues from the Institute of Art Theory and Cultural Studies ​at the Academy of Fine Arts​ Vienna,

Thank you very much for the update. I have just received a message from the Dean of the Institute of Art Theory and Cultural Studies, prof. Ruth Sonderegger informing me about the ​meeting at the Rector’s office regarding my case​ on ​23 April 2015.​

​I​ didn’t understand what was actually gained with this meeting because all updates consisted of the information that I can go to the Rector’s office accompanied by someone (not specified in the message) and that I’ll gain support regarding the editing of my reader (highly appreciated)​.

​Anyway, ​as you know already, the Rector(s) were calling me to such a meeting​ to discuss the “misunderstandings” regarding my case ​ever since I tried to resign. They could have said the same things even before that the Dean and colleague, ​Andreas Spiegel met with them (I wouldn’t know because, as you know already, I could not go to the meeting in the Rectorate and even now I cannot, with or without any company, because of health reasons). Since the Dean informed me that she is again away on a professional trip, and because I don’t have any energy left, nor time for yet another week of stalling and waiting for “news” regarding my case, I am addressing this letter to all colleagues at the Institute.

I knew that I was right all the time: I never received any negative information about my eligibility to apply for the job opening (except from the message which was sent to the Dean from the Rector directly, on the 16th of December 2014, that inconspicuously stated my eligibility to apply). Saying (after two or three months of all these conundrums) that “irrespectively who is right or wrong” only weakens my claims. This gives another opportunity to all people involved in this prolonged and complicated labyrinth that each day only multiplies its legal and ethical turns, and already hurt me, hurt ​my career, and even more, my health ​by just covering up the whole story, with the Equal Opportunity Team and the Arbitration Commission – from whom I haven’t heard from in weeks.

I am not sure whether I will ever get back to the healthy and successful person and professional I was before coming here. I say this after having already cancelled 4 professional trips this month, including a presentation at the Venice Biennale at a CEI Venice Forum for Contemporary Art Curators. Therefore, I just want to let you know that this news, which I’ve just read in an sms message doesn’t prove that my case was taken seriously nor appropriately and it means simply nothing to me. I respected the hierarchies and the communication channels as they were established and clearly conveyed to me until now. I officially asked and received information regarding my Professorship only via the Dean, until now, for obvious reasons. I went through all offered instruments and institutions that were offered to me – the Equal Opportunity Team, Arbitration Committee and Work Council (they all stalled any action and as I mentioned above, I haven’t heard any news from the first two parties already since weeks, but the Work Council promised to communicate this case even to the ‘Arbaitkammer’), but now I address this letter to you only for academic reasons.

The position, the salary, the two years in Vienna, all opportunities for projects, texts, books, meeting most of you in a very friendly setting (well, at least last year) – nothing is worth this humiliation and going backwards in my life, health and career. I was paralysed for two months. As I write this letter, the Association of curators IKT holds its Congress in Vienna and I won’t go there (even though I’ve been registered as attending since months) exactly because of all the stress and harm that I suffered at your Institution. ​

I don’t think that I deserved any of this disrespect regardless of any of my actions (whilst in the ​meanwhile, my thoughts were always respectful and positive towards you, my peers)​, so I’ve taken this diplomatic message from the Dean of the Institute IKW about “irrespectively of who is right or wrong” as yet another disappointment and humiliation.

The Rector and the colleagues from the Institute should be also aware of the existence of the other professional applicants who follow this case: they are also people with dignity and long biographies in our​ discipline of art history​. This whole case, which has become a public story, is a complete humiliation not only to me, but to all professionals from this long established​ field in my region because handling this competition with such obvious lack of interest (today it is the 24th of April- three months after the closing of the call -19 January 2015,​ and application, ​two months after the decision was made) and incompetence (“irrespectively who is right or wrong”) is really outrageous and goes directly in the opposition to the main aims of this professorship that was originally designed as giving the opportunity to scholars from my region to exchange their knowledge (at least, this is what we all thought back in 2013)​.

Now, I am not writing only about the mistreatment of my own humble person, but also about the final selection from the pool of applicants, regardless how and who made this selection. Only in the course of the last week, I’ve found out that the Erste Foundation had already spread the word about the newly selected professor. (I had only suspicions which I didn’t want to even think about. I was already hurt so much, and didn’t want to enter​ any comparison or competition trusting the Institute and its decision based on a unanimous vote – now, I wish I had been more adamant regarding this knowledge, asking for more answers and more information.​)

Justifying the decision for why a person who had never studied art history is going to teach art history (from whatever region, period and regard any gender and sexuality​) at the highest university level, a position which is given for excellence in the field as a far higher title than Professor, will come on the shoulders of IKW as the professional Board of experts. Especially, when considering that the position was given to an individual from a completely different field, you may do the math. The title of Endowed Professor is not the same as the title Guest Professor as the Rector misconstrued in one of her messages. The Endowed Professorship is a title which is higher than most of your own, a name which has always caused (me) a certain amount of discomfort because I appreciated your work so much.

The main question here is why there is a new position and a new title – Endowed Professorship for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories – if one didn’t even have to study art history for one single day to receive such a title? Is this only because the region is so irrelevant, or the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna is a non-academic institution? Most of the other candidates, whom I even know personally, not to mention that I’ve been quoting and teaching their texts to my students, were disrespected and undermined with this decision. Priority was given to a candidate who I am sure has other excellent qualities and academic merits in other fields, but not the discipline of art history and thus doesn’t fit the profile from the call. It is clear (at least to me) that the non-transparent way of making this decision gave a way to so many procedural (and I suspect even illegal) mistakes that even in my country, probably the most corrupted state in Europe, the decision regarding this open call and competition would have been dismissed.

Many people deserve an apology for this, not only I. Has anybody thought about the students, what they would gain​ through such art history classes taught by an unqualified person​? My investment into ​studying art history at a BA and MA level and completing a PhD in Historical and Cultural Studies (field of study: Visual Culture) and going so far in ​designing a specific course -unique not only in terms of regional, historic and gender focus, but also in terms of methodology specifically designed to teach art history to students of an art academy – was obviously too advanced, sophisticated and irrelevant, because of the two-year change rule. But now that I am aware​ that ​the Rector’s decision implied also ​that anybody could teach art history of our region, the whole scandal goes much further than the ethical mistreatment that affected my personal integrity during the competition.​

But of course “irrespectively who is right who is wrong” I don’t expect that such things can happen in Austria given my experiences during the last couple of months.

I already apologised to the students who were curious about the current situation with the course, providing them with more information about my health and reasons for my request for resignation.

Currently, as you are all aware, I am not able to teach because I am on sick leave. My health suffered tremendously in the course of all these events. I am not sure when and whether I will be able to go back teaching and how to proceed with this situation – the amount of stress and pressure continues and is raised each week, including some warnings about police, lawyers, and the possibility of other services that could be called to “calm” me down or check my situation. I was even warned not to leave the country. In a way, they have made me feel like a criminal just because somebody wanted to cover the omissions from the open call, the incompetent decision for a selection of a new professor, …etc.

Please note that all of this could have been prevented with a simple solution – if the half of the Erste funding, or at least a very small amount of it, which stays at the Academy was paid to a professional to formulate the open call. Even my husband came up with a simple solution – namely, if it’s illegal to state my eligibility in the call, you could have added only one sentence: “we give preference to new candidates.” It’s legal and it would have conveyed the message to me: the only “old” candidate, telling me not to apply. He​ isn’t asking for copyright! Please, try to make this amendment at least​ in the next call, if there will be one, making it more ethical and professional.

With this letter, I want to profoundly apologise to all colleagues from the IKW for that I cannot continue teaching under such conditions and in such a framework which has made me sick: one which has repressed transparency and truth. I am very sorry for my bitterness, which has been a result from the unpredictable course of events for which I don’t consider myself guilty nor wrong. Therefore​, given this entire situation, I cannot accept any such formulation as “irrespectively of who is right or wrong​” to be a suitable response to this case. 

The message from prof. Ruth Sonderegger has provoked me into finally writing my own account of the current situation. ​I am not sure whether you all agree and participated in the tone of communication with the Rectorate, so I am directly addressing this to you.

Best regards,
Suzana Milevska

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