THESSALONIKI – Just after Aristotle University’s Classical Studies school was rated among the world’s best, a professor who heads the history and archaeology faculty said a group of students surrounded him in his car and kept him from leaving the grounds.
“They told me that my ‘time was up’,” Gounaris wrote in a post on Facebook, saying students were upset about his changes to the curriculum. It’s common for Greek university students to take over offices and protest tougher standards as they are allowed to be so-called “eternal students” who never have to graduate.
He said he has been targeted before by disgruntled students who typically aren’t reprimanded or expelled, allowed to stay in school no matter how much trouble they cause and with no government yet acting to stop it.
The academic indicated that it was not the first time he has been targeted by disgruntled students, claiming to have been subjected “endless physical and psychological violence,” and pointed to “small groups using violence to impose their opinions.”
In October, 2018, as the then-ruling Radical Left SYRIZA whose base includes former student agitators refused to crack down on violence at universities, the Athens Bar Association said it would start bringing suits against the government unless the problem is reined in but didn’t.
Nevertheless, that pointed to growing incidents on campuses. “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 2018, 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.
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’s fear on campuses.