A Chronology of Being Endowed – A Reconstruction of Suzana Milevska’s Case
This is a chronological summary of the events surrounding Suzana Milevska’s case according to information received by ArtLeaks. For more background information please read here, here and here. Milevska is currently free from her contract with the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. She was not allowed to resign as she requested, nor did she receive any explanation or apology from the Academy or the Erste Foundation.
The first open call for Endowed Professorship for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories was advertised by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna on www.artandeducation.net at the end of January 2013. The position was advertised as a partnership between the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the Erste Foundation. The text of the call emphasized the discipline of art history in the title, and interest in the region, as well as knowledge of local languages for first hand research, the period after 1960s and interest in feminist and postcolonial theories. The job was unique opportunity for professionals from the CSEE to come to Vienna, and to both design and teach this very specific course. The call was widely circulated. Suzana Milevska received it and applied, as she thought her CV was fitting to this description, and a short list and interview were mentioned.
Suzana Milevska was informed in April 2013 that she was selected without any mention of a short list or interviews, etc. The position was the first such chair – it’s an area study within the discipline of art history and with a focus on feminist and postcolonial studies. Since she had BA (from Skopje) and MA (from Prague) in contemporary art history, and her PhD from Goldsmiths in Gender Difference in the Balkans (published) had a strong postcolonial and feminist perspective there were no any critical comments. The contract she signed with the Academy of Fine Arts was a 10 month contract and implied 45 hours of lectures and/or seminars. The course was one semester optional course to which anybody could apply. The first semester there were 44 students enrolled from different years and levels of study (BA, MA, even PhD).
In January 2014 the contract with Suzana Milevska was prolonged (the previous contract would have ended in July 2014) until May 2015 after she was asked if she would like to continue teaching. No competition was advertised because everybody agreed that it would not be ethical to mislead the other professors – prospective applicants from the region to apply when it was clear the professors would vote for Suzana Milevska.
Suzana Milevska was disinvited from giving the keynote speech at the Ceremony of the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory established by the ERSTE Fondation. Just a couple of months before the event, Milevska was disinvited with a justification that the programme changed (although she thought it was implied that the previous winner delivers this speech in the honor of the new winner, since Piotr Piotrovski delivered such a speech in Warsaw at her award ceremony). This coincided with the big restructuring of the Erste Foundation’s administration and management structure – when the whole line of management-the Directors of the programs including the Culture Program were simply erased. Three people on such high positions were removed without replacement.
On 16 December Suzana Milevska asked the Dean of the Academy whether she was eligible to reapply. She received a confident answer from the Rector via the Dean that she was eligible, as was anybody else. The new call was almost exactly the same as the first one, only the duration was changed, and it was advertised as a position for 2 years (which was never the case before). It was not specified if Suzana Milevska as the first (and the only previous professor) had the right to re-apply again, this time or ever again. Suzana Milevska confirmed for ArtLeaks that she was told not to apply with the words “Don’t!” by the Vice Rector Andrea B. Braidt with no mention of any rule, including the 2-year change.
The Dean Ruth Sonderegger encouraged her to apply, even telling her directly that the ‘Don’t!’ was a kind of mobbing, and so finally she decided to apply. In February Milevska already knew that she was voted unanimously from her professor colleagues. Although they were not supposed to tell her this, some of them were very happy and called her home, even the Dean to congratulate her.
The rejection e-mail message from the recruitment agency of the Academy arrived on 17 March and came as a shock to Milevska: it just stated that it was very difficult to make the decision. Strangely the rejection came only a half a day after her enquiry about the results of the competition at the Erste Foundation, because after 3 months of applying and a month after knowing that her application was selected she hadn’t received any answer. In this conversation she was invited to meet with the team to explain to her that Erste Foundation preferred a new professor. When Suzana asked who would be on the team she was told that Erste Foundation curator Christiane Erharter was a part of it (although she hadn’t been before, and was not supposed to be involved in the professorship selection because of her civil partnership with Vice-Rector Andrea B. Braidt, who was responsible for the Professorship on the side of the Academy of Fine Art). Only then Milevska realized that something changed radically after the restructuring of the Erste Foundation: that the Vice-Rector’s partner who was never supposed to be involved in the structure related to the professorship after the firing of the program director of the Culture Program, had suddenly became a member of the team dealing with the professorship. This was a direct conflict of interest.
Suzana Milevska then stopped communicating with the Erste Foundation’s coordinators and curators at that point, and she sent her letter of withdrawal to the Director of the Erste Foundation, Franz Karl Prueller. In his reply he denied any involvement from the Erste Foundation in the decision of the Academy-unfortunately for him it was too late-his employees already slipped and told Milevska bluntly that it was the Foundation that preferred the new professor.
Immediately after the rejection on March 17th Milevska sent a letter of resignation stating Act 11 from her contract (stating that the resignation conditions apply as for Article 23), that in her view would have allowed to her to give her resignation with one month notice. She stated that she cannot understand the rejection decision because she was confident in her application, and that she was never told about the 2-year change rule. The answer that came directly from the Rector was shocking – it stated that the decision was based on the 2-year change rule and stated ‘As you know’ –it was the very same Rector who sent the message that she was eligible just 3 months earlier!
For more information please follow the following links:
First open call to the competition January 2013
First announcements of the selection (ERSTE, Academy of Fine Arts, artandeducation.net)
Second announcement for the Extended position (artandeducation, Academy of Fine Arts) May 2014
Igor Zabel Award Announcement
Second open call December 2014
Second announcement April 2015
Apology letter to the students and the students’ petition “Free Suzana Milevska”
Freedom Milevska Facebook Group
Free Suzana Facebook Event, April 22nd, Schillerpark Vienna
Apology letter Vis Veritas Obses
Vis Veritas Obses 2
Disobedient (Reasons for resignation)