Harking back to the times when it was on the margins of Greece’s political life as an anti-establishment party backing protests, main opposition SYRIZA said Thursday it will fight tooth and nail against the government’s new education bill, which, among other things, foresees the presence of police on university campuses to deal with chronic lawlessness plaguing the country’s academic institutions.
The legislation introduced on Tuesday was received with reservations by parts of the Greece’s academic community and promoted derision from the left wing of the country’s political spectrum.
In a statement Thursday, SYRIZA demanded its withdrawal, calling on “the democratic university community, every democratic and progressive citizen to cancel the reactionary plans of the government.”
To this end, it called for “collective defense and strengthening of democracy against any form of repression, against any method to exclude young people.”
Apart from the presence of police on campus, SYRIZA is also opposed to the introduction of a minimum grade threshold for university entry exams, arguing that the number of students admitted to higher education will be reduced, creating a “clientele for colleges.”
The bill’s provisions will be discussed on Tuesday in an extraordinary meeting of the Synod of Rectors with Education Minister Niki Kerameus.
In a foretaste of what to expect, a student march was held in the center of Athens Thursday.
Nikos Filis, SYRIZA’s shadow education minister, derided the measure, saying it was an effort by the government to re-introduce a security force akin to ones of bygone eras when the country’s freedom of expression was compromised. Filis, a former education minister, accused the government of besmirching universities as places of lawlessness as a pretext to set up this force, “despite the opposition of all the rectors and thousands of teachers and students.” The government, he insisted, “is opting for authoritarian rule at the expense of public universities and paving the way for even greater repression at the expense of young people.”
“We will fight not to implement them in practice and they will finally be abolished when the Right leaves,” he said. Another former education minister for SYRIZA, Kostas Gavroglou, also denounced the creation of student disciplinary councils foreseen in the bill as reminiscent of the Greek military dictatorship of 1967-74.