Mobility row paralyzes universities

A burgeoning row between administrative staff protesting a civil service overhaul and academics seeking to avoid further upheaval just six months after a similar dispute was resolved has left the country’s two largest universities in a state of virtual paralysis.

The National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) remained closed for the seventh day in a row Friday while two prestigious faculties of Athens University – the medical and law schools – were occupied by protesters.

The administrative staff protesting their induction into a troika-mandated mobility scheme have been joined by students and some academics backing their cause. But another camp of employees and supporters object to a new protracted sitin as a form of protest. A three-month strike last fall led to serious upheaval in the higher education sector and some have warned that similar action could jeopardize the summer semester.

In a bid to break the deadlock Friday, the NTUA’s council asked the university’s senate to intervene. “The NTUA does not belong exclusively to anyone, neither to students, nor to academics, nor to employees,” the council said in a statement. “First and foremost, it belongs to society and all those who serve it have a duty to defend its standing and the public interest,” it added, calling on academic authorities to “actively implement responsible management.”

In the case of Athens University, the rector, Theodosios Pelegrinis, has backed protesting staff and has called on the government to “keep its promises,” an apparent reference to agreements reached between unionists and former Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos.