The Academic Council of the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU) voted on 20 October to elect Jaba Samushia, who was the only candidate participating in the elections, as acting rector of the University for a maximum period of 6 months.
The election became necessary after the former rector, Giorgi Sharvashidze, unexpectedly resigned from his position on 7 October. TSU announced that it was accepting candidates for the position on 10 October, and gave people from October 11, 10:00 a.m. to 13 October, 6:00 p.m. to submit their candidacy. Samushia was the only one to do so.
Elections Against the Background of Protests
The election of the acting rector took place against the background of student protests, which are demanding a change in the procedure for electing a rector and calling on the University to build a dormitory for students and provide subsidized housing.
After Samushia was elected, one of the students stated that they do not recognize today’s elections as legitimate, because “it was held by bypassing the students.”
“The Academic Council should be dissolved because it is not an independent body, it fulfills the orders of the state and privileged groups in the University,” he stressed.
Another TSU student emphasized the importance of democratically electing the rector and added that “elite democracy and democracy are radically different.”
A different student told journalists that they will continue to fight for their rights.
After being elected as the acting rector, Samushia told journalists that he will try to answer all the questions “that have been worrying our students” recently. “We [must] have a constant dialogue with all the students and people who are pained by the future of the [Tbilisi State] University,” he added.
The acting rector also noted that the University will do everything to increase its authority and make professors’ involvement in university life “even more important.” “And, of course, we should support our students in every possible way…,” he said.
To the journalist’s query regarding the fact that Samushia was the sole candidate in the election, he stated that he cannot answer the question of why someone else did not submit an application. “This is a little bit of an awkward question towards me,” he emphasized.
The acting rector also argued that had the selection process been a “staged force,” whoever was behind it would have planted a second candidate in the elections as well to dispel any questions about the legitimacy of the process.
51-year-old Samushia holds a Ph.D. in history and has been a full-time professor of the Humanities Faculty at TSU since 2018. In addition, since 2020, he has held the post of General Director of the Shota Rustaveli National Foundation. Before that, in 2018-2020 he was the deputy director for the same foundation.
From 2014-2017, Samushia was a Georgian Dream deputy of the Tbilisi Municipal Council, as well as the chairperson of the Council’s Property Management and Financial-Budgetary Commission.
Samushia was also a member of the Council from 2010-2014. While he entered the representative body on the list of the Christian-Democratic party, he later left to join Georgian Dream.
Note: This article was updated on 20 October at 20:05 to reflect Samushia’s statement.