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Politics

Over Protests, Greek MP’s OK Campus Cops, Education Reforms

February 12, 2021

ATHENS – The Greek Parliament controlled by the New Democracy Conservatives approved an education bill setting higher standards for getting ito and staying in college, time limits to graduate and also security forces for violence-hit universities.

The legislation was passed by a vote of 166-132, the ruling party having 158 seats and a majority, but critics of the campus police forces said that threatens academic freedom set up after the end of military rule in the 1970’s.

It happened over the fierce protests (1), (2), (3) of demonstrators outside who violated COVID-19 health restrictions against public gatherings, the opponents angry with higher standards for education that had been rolled back under the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the reforms would end years of lawlessness at Greek campuses, whose staffs were split over the need, a number of academics earlier writing him for help in policing the grounds.

"Nowhere in the world do we see images … of historical buildings being vandalized, equipment being looted," Mitsotakis told legislators before the vote, referring to numerous incidents in recent years where self-styled anarchist groups broke in and caused damage on Greek campuses.

The issue of police on campus has been especially sensitive in Greece since the 1967-1974 military government. During a 1973 student revolt that helped topple the junta, a tank crashed through the gates of the Polytechnic university, killing students, said the news agency Reuters in its report.

Opponents of the law said state universities could hire more security staff and upgrade other safety measures instead of bringing in police but the government noted universities had refused to enforce rules and let students run amok.

New Democracy earlier ended asylum on campuses that turned hideouts for criminals as police were barred from entering except for the most egregious violations, but SYRIZA wanting the sanctuary kept anyway.

Other measures in the bill limit the length of time students can stay enrolled before getting a degree, ending the practice of so-called “Eternal Students” who could stay that way even for life.

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