Universities rethink police access

Greek universities need to consider asking for a change to the law that bans police from entering their grounds, the dean of Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens told Kathimerini yesterday after youths had vandalized the school. A group of around 50 youths ran riot through the university grounds early on Tuesday. Administrators were yesterday assessing the damage, in which 25 doors, several desks and computers were destroyed. The Panteion senate met yesterday to discuss the damage, which, it estimates, will take around a month to repair. Under a law passed in 1982, policemen and other law enforcement officers are not allowed to enter university grounds unless asked to do so by the senate. After a spate of recent attacks on universities, which police were not able to prevent because of the law, known as «university immunity,» several academics have said it is time for change. «We are not in favor of the immunity being lifted and the senate is unanimous on this,» Panteion Dean Stamos Papastamous told Kathimerini. «But we can’t sit idly by while the university’s property is damaged.» The law was passed with the military dictatorship – during which a student uprising at Athens Polytechnic was crushed – still fresh in public memory and is meant to preserve «academic freedom, scientific research and the free movement of ideas.» Tuesday’s riot was the latest in a series of protests against the housing of a government press center next to Panteion. Students are unhappy that the building was not given to the university and that the press center is guarded by police and CCTV cameras. Authorities, however, believe that few of the rioters were students at the university. Most of Panteion’s grounds are not guarded.