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The Greek government says universities are not communes but the students disagree

01 September 2011 / 18:09:57  GRReporter
3051 reads

Victoria Mindova 


"A river does not flow back" was one of the slogans that students and people dissatisfied with the new law on higher education chanted with fervor. They have launched the first protest this autumn, promising it will not be the last, after the parliament adopted almost unanimously the new law, which repealed many of the existing rules.

Some of these changes in higher education include a new type of financial management of universities, a new type of election of rectors by international competition, and assessment of teachers’ effectiveness every five years. Moreover, the new law repeals the right of refugee asylum (known in Greece as "assilo") in Greek universities, which has applied more than 30 years after the fall of the junta in 1974.

The "asylum" in the buildings of higher and secondary education consists primarily in prohibiting police and military units to proceed to university buildings and areas. As a result, many anarchist and other anti-government movements have found in recent years protection in the university areas in Greece. The usual parties in power - New Democracy and PASOK, voted the new law unanimously and 255 of the 300 parliament members gave a positive vote for the repeal of the university asylum.

These changes did not meet the approval of many of the rectors, who began to fear seriously for their jobs. Some students also disagreed with the new law. Their main arguments are that they would not like the police to have access to university areas and "business managers" to manage the universities.
The protesters gathered in the centre of Athens at noon to hold their protest procession. Armed with posters and slogans like "Hands off the asylum" and "Out the police of universities" the students went hand in hand to Omonia Square to get a little later to Syntagma Square to the parliament.

The protest was peaceful except for a short incident before the procession. A group of about 20 anarchists attacked two uniformed policemen and a traffic controller, and caused minor damage to the police car. The boys in black jumped out of the crowd gathering in front of the Athens University holding iron rods and stones in their hands. They gave a battle cry. They broke the glass on the right front door of the police car and pursued the two policemen. Their numerical superiority was evident, and the police officers did not hesitate to step back. The traffic controller hid in the car and quickly escaped from the furious anarchists. Despite the tensions, there were no riots and tear gas.

Funding of universities is an old issue and in times of financial crisis, the government is trying to optimize costs in all sides of the budget. Another long-standing problem is that because of the right of asylum, students often resort to blockades. As a result, classes are not taken for weeks, but the students retain the right to pass the exams. Thus, many students are keeping the status of "eternal students" and the university halls become shelter for various groups that have no connection with the academic community.

"The University is not a commune in which the pupils decide when and how they will be tested," said the Minister of Education Anna Diamandopoulou in support of the new law. She added that academic circles should not accept to hold 13-week courses in only seven weeks and thus allowing the students graduate educated in half. Diamandolpoulou is adamant that she would not yield to the students’ demands the old system to continue to act and is determined to implement the new law letter by letter.

The September exams have been postponed by two weeks because of the planned protests, and this year is expected to be difficult for both students and their parents. The people dissatisfied with the new law on higher education intend to continue with the protests, rallies and strikes until the government withdraws its decisions but it does not seem it will give up.


Tags: SocietyUniversitiesStudentsGreeceProtestsRalliesAsylum
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