'Engineer' to remain in Interior Ministry post, despite false academic title

Jiri Vacek, photo: CTK

In a culture where people often tout their academic titles not only on their calling cards but also on their doorbells, the Czech media had a field day with revelations that a top Interior Ministry official never graduated from high school, yet happily used the title of "engineer" - the Czech equivalent to a Bachelor of Science degree.

Jiri Vacek, photo: CTK
Academic and job titles are of great importance in Czech culture, in both verbal and written address. A quick scan of the mailboxes in your average apartment house will yield an array of "doktors", "Magistrs""inzenyrs", "JUDrs", "PHdrs".

If your landlady's name is Jana Novakova, you might still address her as "Pani domaci" or "Mrs Landlady". If she has a graduate degree, she may well prefer to be called "Pani magistra" or literally "Mrs holder of a Masters degree". You may know your boss as "Mr Director" and so on.

So little wonder that "Inzenyr" Jiri Vacek — an Interior Ministry expert in the fight against illegal drugs — has found himself the subject of ridicule after the weekly magazine Tyden reported that he not only had no right to use the title "Mr Bachelor of Science"— he didn't even graduate from high school.

"Mr Elementary School Graduate" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

The media also fun with the fact that Mr "Too cool for school" Vacek had been named "frajer roku" - something like "dandy" or "lady-killer" of the year by the organization "Families Against Drugs".

Mr Vacek, who may be guilty of resume-padding but has not broken any laws, will not be removed from his post. However, he will be getting a new brass plaque on his office door - minus the title "inzenyr". Presumably, he has ordered some new business cards as well.

The whole affair is reminiscent of the 1996 "JUDr-gate" scandal which saw the resignation of half a dozen politicians who had been using the title "Doctor of Law" without having the academic degree to back it up. Among them was then Justice Minister Jan Kalvoda.

In 1997, a special parliamentary committee was formed to investigate the validity of deputies' academic titles, but the volunteer vetting hasn't yet reached the ministerial level.