ATHENS – With the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA refusing to crack down on unrelenting violence at Greek universities, the Athens Bar Association said it would start bringing suits against the government unless the problem is reined in.
“The prevalence of lawlessness in these places, due largely to the total indifference of the state, not only humiliates and devalues public higher education in our country,” but is an affront to the state itself, it said.
The ABA also attacked the “unacceptable and novel theories” that place the blame on the university community and students. These theories, it said, are “alien to our legal culture and lead to dangerous paths.”
In May, a study of violence at Greek universities by Thessaloniki’s University of Macedonia said there were at least 358 cases from 2011-17, punctuated by a number during the reign of SYRIZA that is riddled with terrorist and anarchist sympathizers and condoning anti-establishment acts against almost anyone except the party.
Nearly a quarter of those involved attacks on academics and professors singled out as targets in some cases because they were believed not to support radicals.
The incidents included violence of all kinds, ranging from physical attacks to raids on university campuses, vandalism, drug dealing, robbery and rape, and occurred at 19 universities, said Kathimerini, with the largest number of attacks – 113 – on the grounds of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, the country’s largest, followed by 70 on Athens University campuses and 36 at the National Technical University of Athens.
University professors or lecturers were targeted in 95 cases and students in 34 although the authors said the numbers are likely far higher than those recorded and not reported to authorities where there is fear on campuses.
Education Minister Costas Gavroglou set up a committee of experts early this year to investigate ways to prevent the spiraling violence that critics said is tied to SYRIZA support of an asylum law that makes university grounds a sanctuary where police can’t enter except if a serious crime is being committed.
Led by former justice minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos, the 12-member committee includes several academics as well as representatives of the Greek judiciary and police force.
The major opposition New Democracy Conservatives wants to end university asylum, which was restored by SYRIZA after it took office in January, 2015 and violence soared, especially in the capital of Athens.
The asylum law must be changed “so that there are no gray areas regarding the autonomous intervention of police in instances of crimes being committed in faculties,” New Democracy Shadow Education Minister Niki Kerameus told the paper.
The union representing university professors called on the government “to finally grasp the scale of the problem, to assume its responsibilities for the situation on university premises and to protect, as it should do, the lives of students and staff as well as university public property.”
In January, Manos Stefanidis, an Assistant Professor of Theater Studies at the University of Athens, posted a letter on the Student News website www.foititikanea.gr saying growing crimes were targeting academics, and he blamed the government-backed sanctuary law.
He said school officials should do more to protect staff and students and to stop what he called “unprecedented scenes of violence and lawlessness” on the grounds of a student accommodation complex in Zografou and at various faculties.
The asylum law banning police from entering university grounds is being exploited by “insolent criminals,” he said while referring to a “provocative increase in lawlessness committed by criminal gangs” operating in the area.