Anti-war rallies boost profile of student elections

The usually low-key student election campaigns have been livened up this year by anti-war slogans, appeals for blood donations and humanitarian aid, to the tune of Manu Chao’s «Me gusta la pace» and the more traditional protest songs by Mikis Theodorakis, such as the classic «Swallow.» The runup to next Wednesday’s election indicates that student turnout will be far higher than last year, when only 70 percent of students voted. The Iraq war may have set the tone, but student group platforms have dealt with important issues in tertiary education. These include the evaluation of universities and technical colleges and the harmonization of European tertiary education as well as problems within Greek universities – and above all, the lack of lecture halls and the situation in student dormitories. Party affiliations «We are protesting actively against the war by collecting humanitarian aid, giving blood and staging demonstrations,» said Georgios Papanikolaou, general secretary of the DAP-NDFK faction affiliated to the main opposition New Democracy party and a law student. «At the same time, there are major problems within the universities, such as overcrowding. At the law school, a professor actually had to ask half of the students to sit down in the lecture halls during the first hour and the other half during the second hour,» he said. “There are similar problems in regional universities, such as the Aegean and Ioannina. The situation in the student dorms is also terrible,» he added. The PASOK-affiliated PASP faction is playing Manu Chao’s song over loudspeakers, as it has made the song’s title («I like peace») its slogan for the campaign. «We are putting an emphasis on young people’s anti-war feelings, given their strong presence at peace demonstrations,» said PASP’s secretary, Dimitris Sakelaris, a student at Thessaloniki’s school of philosophy. «On the other hand, we think there should be more money spent on education and on student welfare, housing and food.» «We are also seeking free postgraduate education, which now costs up to 5,900 euros.» «Struggle for education, peace, work» is the slogan of the Communist Party-affiliated PSK faction. «The war is the result of a policy which – in other ways – affects education and work. The students are furious. Tertiary education is being downgraded, exacerbated by the draft bill on evaluating (the institutions) that gives emphasis to market criteria,» said PSK’s representative Nestoras Xylas, who is studying at the National Technical University’s school of electrical engineering. Other left-wing groups «Resist the barbarity of war – no participation for Greece» is the catchphrase of the «Network,» which includes student groups affiliated with Synaspismos Left Coalition, environmentalists and other left-wing groups. «The basis of our campaign is the war and the changes to tertiary education,» said Network member Ioannis Bournous, a student of English philology at the University of Athens. «We are opposed to the method for evaluating tertiary institutions which the government is proposing in its draft bill. We think internal evaluation is more useful,» he said. The United Independent Left Movement (EAAK) representative Yiannis Skindilias, a medical student, said the group would continue to organize its anti-war campaign, which remains the predominant issue for students, even following the imminent elections.