ATHENS – Greece’s New Democracy government’s plan to beef up security on college campuses where there’s been a spate of violence has run into more opposition, this time from the Senate of the Panteion University which doesn’t want it.
A noted professor there, Angelos Syrigos – now a Member of Parliament for the Conservatives, was attacked on the campus there in 2017 and had to be hospitalized and assaults on other academics have continued periodically at other schools.
The campus police was among the government’s plan to keep intruders off school grounds, 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.
They smashed computers and equipment and sprayed slogans on walls and furniture, and running away posted a photo of the rector with the sign on his neck on an anti-establishment website but didn't say why he was targeted.
Anarchist groups are furious that Greek police have emptied squats, authorities saying some were used from criminal behavior.
New Democracy had also ended asylum on university grounds which had kept police from entering except for the most serious crimes but the Panteion Senate was the first to oppose the new measures.
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 violence.
Rectors want security to remain under the purview of the senate and university authorities, the paper said.
The Education Ministry scheme is running into roadblocks already and needs to get the support of a committee appointed by the Council of Rectors, universities political hotbeds where students have a big say and occupy buildings in protests.
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 not go along with a centralized plan applicable to all, with opposition being raised to measures such as campus police forces, security cameras and ID cards and school grounds passes.
While the committee so far is said to agree with the need for stricter measures it also wants the framework to be designed by school authorities, not the government or its ministries which could lead to a further schism of ideas.
After 10 academics said the government had to act, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis directed a plan aimed at trying to stop attacks and violence on university grounds, often directed at professors.
That would include creating campus security forces to stop criminal behavior and request police aid if needed, a group that will receive special training to deal with invaders on their school grounds.
Anyone can enter universities now and it wasn't said why there weren't security checks. University grounds had been used by anarchists and criminals to hide from police before New Democracy ended a sanctuary law resurrected by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which has terrorist and anarchist sympathizers.
Education Minister Niki Kerameus said then that, “Those who think that with bullying, fascism and violence they will terrorize academics and go unpunished, they are badly mistaken.”
The academics had written Mitsotakis a letter demanding action, including tighter security to “safeguard academic life and the operation (of universities,” which have seen on-and-off violence directed at professors, including the ongoing assaults.