ATHENS – After Panteion University's Senate rejected the idea, four other major Greek universities have agreed to accept having campus police forces aimed at thwarting violence after assaults on officials and drug dealing near their grounds – and then objections were immediately raised.
The security forces will be deployed at the University of Athens, the National Technical University of Athens, the Athens University of Economics and Business and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), while the University of Patras may also join the list, said Kathimerini.
It comes in the wake of an Oct. 29 incident in which a group of some 15 hooded people stormed the office of the rector of the Athens University of Economics & Business, Dimitris Bourantonis, causing extensive damages, draping a sign around his neck with a slogan backing squatters.
But hours after it was reported the four schools had agreed to the plan the paper said the Education Ministry was also running into fierce objections and needed to get the support of a committee appointed by the Council of Rectors, including students who can block it.
The panel has representatives from the country's five biggest universities and wants, said Kathimerini, to have a more “politically neutral” stance so it's not seen on the side of the ruling Conservatives.
Some members reportedly believe that each university should adopt its own security measures and oppose campus police forces, security cameras and ID cards and school grounds passes issued, effectively gutting the security plan the academics wanted.
A wider security plan that New Democracy moved to put in place came after the government also ended asylum on university grounds that had been implemented again by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that is riddled with terrorist and anarchist elements.
That law had barred police from chasing criminals onto college campuses and seen a number of assaults, including on academics and a jump in violence led a group of academics to demand the government stop it.
A University Institutions Protection Team (OPPI) will have police powers, receive special training and wear a special uniform patroling the four campuses and alert police of trouble but only then told how to react
The Ministry of Education has insisted that the members of the OPPI answer to the Hellenic Police (ELAS) and the Ministry of Citizens’ Protection, and not the university, the paper said.
The regulation ready to be submitted would set up a force of 1,000 officers for the universities of Athens and Thessaloniki where violent incidents are more prevalent and had seen no way to be stopped.
Universities will also have a security service whose members will be responsible for supervising and guarding their premises and control who enters the campus, doubling protective measures.
“The way the universities will organize their security service – (either])with their own employees, a security company or whatever – is their own issue,” a senior official of the Ministry of Education not named told the paper.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' government’s plan to beef up security on college campuses has seen some vehement opposition however from some universities which don't want it despite incidents.
At Panteion, a noted professor there, Angelos Syrigos – now a Member of Parliament for the Conservatives, was attacked on the campus in 2017 and had to be hospitalized and assaults on other academics have continued periodically at other schools.
The permanent presence of law enforcement officials “is not compatible with the pursuit of knowledge,” the senate said, reported Kathimerini.
“The presence of police forces within the university creates tensions in the academic community, which operates in a self-governing environment and is the only one that can guarantee freedom of speech and science,” it added without offering any other way to protect students and academics from the violence.
Rectors want security to remain under the purview of the senate and university authorities, the paper also said.