Challenged Judicial Systems: Professor Robert Phillips’ Class Features Prominent Speakers
Journalists Kanna Racheva, Rossen Bossev and Sylvia Velikova, U.S. Embassy Resident Legal Advisor Jessica Kim, Bilyana Gyaurova-Wegertseder, Director at the Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives – these are just some of the prominent speakers that discussed Bulgaria’s judicial system with AUBG students. The guest lectures were part of Professor Robert Phillips’ Challenged Judicial Systems class, which is held online.
“I originally thought to offer the course after watching some of the challenges that judicial systems in several established democracies were enduring -- in the U.S., in Poland, in Hungary, in Bulgaria, and in other places,” he said. “Over the summer as the protests began, I decided to focus more specifically on the Bulgarian judicial system. Our goal has been to look at some of the challenges to the rule of law and judicial independence in Bulgaria.”
Back in July, protests erupted in Bulgaria demanding the resignation of the government and of the country’s Chief Public Prosecutor, and have continued for over 100 consecutive days.
“I am grateful to Professor Phillips for prompting me and other students to think about something as important and salient as challenged judiciaries,” said Zdravko Cherkezov, Political Science and European Studies student at AUBG. “I am personally invested in the problems of the Bulgarian judicial system, having taken part in this summer's protests, and the opportunity to learn from international magistrates, journalists, and civil society representatives has been invaluable so far.”
Inviting experts to speak during classes was a natural choice, Phillips said. “I am not a scholar of judicial systems or the rule of law,” he said. “To really understand the challenges to the Bulgarian judicial system, we needed to hear those who are more knowledgeable and who are involved in these issues on a daily basis. There is a wealth of knowledge and passion about these issues, and we just need to involve these individuals in the conversations with average citizens and with AUBG students.”
Yoanna Dimitrova, who studies Business Administration and Political Science at AUBG, said the class further motivated her to pursue a career in politics in Bulgaria. “What I got as a key takeaway from the course was that it is us, the young generations of Bulgaria, who should persuade our countrymen that each individual can make a difference to society,” she said.
“We, as students and citizens, have the power and responsibility to bring about change in our societies for the better -- a testament to AUBG's liberal arts system of education,” Cherkezov said.
Born in the U.S., Phillips has lived in Bulgaria and taught political science at AUBG for almost 30 years. “I hope that I help some young people understand the role that politics has in their lives,” he said. “I am very blessed that I have been given the opportunity to do something that I love and that I feel is vitally important.”