Greece’s universities in the grip of violence

Greece’s universities in the grip of violence

A sharp spike in incidents of violence, and criminal activities, on the grounds of universities across the country has fueled concern among academics who say they are powerless to intervene.

Police are investigating several such cases. In the early hours of  Saturday a group of around 15 people, all wearing crash helmets and wielding wooden sticks, attacked students attending a function at the theater studies campus of Athens University on Academias Street in central Athens. The assailants beat up several students, four of whom were transferred to Evangelismos Hospital, and wreaked serious damage to the building. Before fleeing, the assailants stole a box of money that the students had collected at the event.

That incident came just two days after a group of unidentified vandals used iron bars and wooden sticks to wreak serious damage at the University of Macedonia (UOM), in Thessaloniki, northern Greece.

“The violence appears to be escalating,” the UOM’s rector, Achilleas Zapranis, told Kathimerini. “We have to realize that this kind of violence only happens in our country. That has to be our point of departure if we are going to wipe out this problem,” he said, adding that violence at universities must not come to be regarded as commonplace. 

Academics say the situation is beyond their control. “Universities are not in a position to deal with such incidents,” the Council of Rectors said in a statement.

“The government is the competent authority to protect universities which lack the staff for that,” said  president of the Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP), Stathis Efstathopoulos. “It is phenomena like these that undermine the asylum [protection from police intervention] of universities,” he said. He called for measures similar to those used in other countries, such as the denial of access to university grounds of anyone without a special identity card.

Another problem highlighted by the rector of the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB), Emmanouil Giakoumakis, is the flourishing trade of counterfeit goods on university grounds, chiefly cigarettes but also clothes and bags.

Drug dealing is also said to be rife at the AUEB, with addicts from the nearby Pedio tou Areos park visiting the grounds with increasing regularity, according to sources.

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