In response to the statement of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan that there is no place in Armenia for rectors who turned the higher education system into party cells and locked doors in front of students, Rector of Yerevan State University Aram Simonyan insisted that they “have not locked doors, nor was a party cell established at the university.”
However, the facts show that Simonyan’s statements do not correspond to reality.
The “Party-ization” of YSU
During the years of the ruling Republican Party, gradual party-ization took place at Yerevan State University. For example, Simonyan, who has been YSU rector since 2006, is a member of the RPA since 1998, and is a member of the RPA Board since his appointment as Rector.
And in November 2014, the legal status of the University was changed from SNCO to a foundation, and the president of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) Serzh Sargsyan was elected Chairman of the YSU Board of Trustees.
Many members of the RPA were also members of the YSU Board of Trustees, namely, Serzh Sargsyan, Vigen Sargsyan, Hranush Hakobyan, Armen Ashotyan, Artak Davtyan, Arsen Karamyan and Hovhannes Hovsepyan.
Smbat Lputyan, Deputy Chairman of the Chess Federation, was also member of the Board of Trustees of YSU. Though he was not member of the RPA, he was member of the RPA faction in Yerevan City Council.
Vahagn Varagyan, Head of the Department of Student Affairs at the Yerevan State University, is also a member of the RPA since 2010. And since 2014 he is a member of the RPA Board. The YSU Student Council is supervised through this structure.
Prior to this, Mihran Hakobyan, who was RPA member since 2011, was head of that structure in 2006-2012. He was elected MP by the RPA list in 2017. By the way, Hakobyan left the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in January 2019 and co-founded “Quartet Media”.
In 2004-2006, Hakobyan held the post of YSU Student Council Chairman. Back in 2011 media reported that Mihran Hakobyan was a member of the RPA since 2006 and was engaged in explicit political and party activities at the University.
During the protests following 2013 presidential elections, YSU Rector Aram Simonyan’s assistant, RPA member Gevorg Melkonyan had mobilized an “army” against the students who were on strike after the elections.
Locking the university doors
Simonyan’s second assertion that they did not lock doors is just as unreasonable. YSU students’ right to freedom of movement was violated during demonstrations for different political demands.
For example, YSU doors were locked for protesting students following the 2013 presidential election. The doors of the Alma Mater were also locked in 2017, during demonstrations for right to military deferment. Finally, during April 2018 demonstrations, the doors of YSU and other HEIs were kept locked by the university leadership.