The row over whether security guards should check the identity cards of anyone entering the grounds of Athens University heated up Tuesday, with the government and SYRIZA trading accusations over a protest against the measure introduced by rector Theodoros Fortsakis.
The head of the university wants a private security firm to prevent anyone apart from students, academic staff, administrative employees and invited guests from entering the premises. The plan is opposed by unions representing administrative personnel and by some student groups.
Dozens of those who are against the security checks have protested on university grounds this week. Unionists also held a news conference there Tuesday to air their views about Fortsakis.
“He is acting like he’s the government spokesperson,” said Zacharias Trigazis, the president of the board of administrative staff.
“He has to realize that he is a rector, not a sheriff,” said Giorgos Papadopoulos, a representative of the ADEDY civil servants’ union.
Fortsakis, however, stood his ground and even filed a law suit against “anyone responsible” for preventing the university from operating normally. The head of the first instance prosecutor’s office, Ilias Zagoraios, ordered a preliminary investigation following the rector’s suit. Fortsakis did not order the police to remove protesters.
The dispute took on a political aspect as three SYRIZA MPs joined the protest, drawing criticism from government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi. “It is inconceivable that members of the Greek Parliament would play a leading role in incidents, sit-ins and all other kinds of breaches of the law,” she said.
Education Minister Andreas Loverdos came out in support of Fortsakis. “Nobody has the right to tell rectors who can and cannot come in,” he said.
SYRIZA opposes the presence of security guards at universities as it believes this could compromise their role as areas of free association and debate. It was also angered by Fortsakis referring to the presence of the leftist MPs at the university as “unconstitutional.”
The opposition party accused the rector of “undemocratic behavior” and “choosing to serve the government’s strategy of tension.”