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Statement from FAMU management regarding the current situation in school

Statement from FAMU management regarding the current situation in school

Dear Students, Dear Academic and Non-Academic Workers,

We are sending you a statement from FAMU management (Dean, Vice-Deans and Bursar) regarding the situation involving illegally obtained e-mail communication between several academic workers of our school, having previously consulted lawyers and two university ombudspersons on the matter.

First and foremost, it must be said that this was an extreme act that has sowed distrust across our entire Faculty community on many levels. The act is deeply injuring to the people whose e-mails have been stolen, and it is necessary to be empathic towards them considering the impact of such an intrusion into their privacy, regardless of the opinion group in school that each of us is part of.

We all at the Faculty are severely divided on the issue of what stance we should take with regard to this situation, and whether it is defendable to read such leaked communication and, subsequently, work with the topics that it brings up. We understand those who refuse to read the communication and discuss its content. At the same time, given that hundreds of people including certain journalists have read it, it is not possible to start pretending that nothing happened or that the information did not leak out. How can we find a common solution acceptable for everyone? The answer has two facets, a legal one and a practical one that is related to the way that we will work and communicate together going forward.

According to a legal analysis that we have, it is not punishable to read the e-mail communication (while refusing to do so for ethical reasons is of obviously legitimate as well). Also, it is not punishable to voice one’s own opinions and positions based on the information contained in the e-mails and to communicate them in a manner that does not deliberately damage anyone. 

To put this in practical terms: how can we all discuss this incident together – both those who have read the e-mails and those who have not? From our viewpoint, it is actually not necessary to discuss specific e-mail messages sent by someone to someone else in a debate across the entire academic community in order to address the situation. In reality, this incident has unveiled certain general issues that have existed in our school for a long time, which we all can try to discuss also on the basis of certain publicly accessible facts and signals. In our opinion, the problems involve 1) toxic internal culture (which, unfortunately, also interferes with the relationships between teachers and students), 2) incorrect or even hostile relationships between certain employees of the Faculty who, instead, should collaborate with a view to ensuring that the school and students prosper, and 3) the inability to communicate and conduct internal politics disputes within academic self-government in a normal, transparent manner.

This situation evokes various emotions in us as the members of the Faculty’s leadership whom the leaked conversations concern, and being in this position, we are and will continue processing the emotions for time to come. This is also one of the reasons why we have not yet analysed everything or proposed every detail of what and how we will do about this situation. Certain specific efforts geared towards healing the relationships within the school in general, whether in a long-term perspective or with a view to addressing specific issues involving various bodies of the school, have already been initiated and will take place in the nearest future, or we are considering them. These are primarily the following steps:

  • We will endeavour to work with the FAMU Senate in search of more sustainable solutions that, in our opinion, should not come from us, “from above”; they should rather be the result of collective thinking and discussion, involving at least the elected representatives of the academic community. For example, it is possible to organise a plenary meeting of the academic community that will focus, in a constructive manner, on the three aforementioned general problems, possibly with external experts invited.
  • The ombudswoman unveiled the steps she will take going forward in her e-mail to the Faculty community: in addition to individual communication support that she and the Faculty psychologists will provide, she will organise meetings in the near future with a focus on the various topics that plague the Faculty.
  • Filings with the Ethics Committee and the Academic Senate of AMU have been or will be made; the bodies will address the communication concerned and its leakage.
  • The matter will probably be a topic for the FAMU Senate as well. The Senate has been undergoing personnel changes after three persons left (Ondřej Lukeš, Karla Stojáková, David Kořínek). FAMU leadership cannot intervene in the functioning of the FAMU Senate due to the nature of the matter – it is up to the Senate and the academic community to address, if necessary, any difficulties related to the functioning of the Senate if they consider it appropriate. For example, certain schools apply more specific rules for election campaigns and the forms of influencing the students.
  • The Dean’s proposal for the replacement of two members of FAMU’S Internal Evaluation Committee will be filed with AMU’s Internal Evaluation Board.
  • If Karla Stojáková accepts this, the Dean will appoint her to return to the Department of Production as the Head in charge.
  • Within the days to come, we will send you our statement as the Faculty’s leadership with regard to the text known as Eight Points (8 bodů), which voices no confidence in the school’s leadership. It was sent to the Academic Senate of FAMU in April and has begun to spread across the school and to the media in recent days. It is closely connected with the current situation, which was stirred by the leaked e-mails, and it may cause various concerns and misunderstanding, which is why we feel compelled to provide our reaction for those who are interested in the affair. 

What we regret the most is the fact that the leaked communication between some of our academic workers has offered FAMU students a sorry glimpse into the relationships existing within the Faculty and that this causes them to distrust the school as such. Regardless of all that, let us be aware that FAMU as a school is not falling apart – it continues working as it should as far as instruction and producing films are concerned, and we as its leaders will strive every day to ensure that instruction and production is affected as little as possible. Despite differing opinions, it is essential for us to treat each other in a perceptive and correct manner. Most employees of this school act in a professional, responsible, and kind manner both towards each other and towards students.

We wish you a successful completion of the semester. Yours sincerely,

Andrea Slováková (Dean), Petr Vlček (Vice-Dean for Student Affairs), Helena Bendová (Vice-Dean for Science and Research), David Čeněk (Vice-Dean for International Relationships), Viera Hladišová (Bursar)

10. May 2022