‘The police should patrol universities’

Veteran PASOK Deputy Theodoros Pangalos believes the police should be allowed on university premises to impose order, regardless of the wishes of university authorities. In an interview with Kathimerini, he attacks the new Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP) which, he says «does not represent the majority of academics,» and he cannot understand the ongoing opposition to the revision of Article 16 of the Constitution, commenting that «those who are demonstrating in the streets don’t have a clue what we are discussing.» He admits that it will be hard, though not impossible, for PASOK to turn around predictions that it will lose the elections, and notes that in the case of a defeat «all of us will be judged» and states that in any case he is «active and available» to the party. You once said that if an opposition party does not have the lead in the opinion polls toward the end of an electoral term, it is very hard to turn the predictions around. Do you still believe that? It is indeed hard; I won’t change what I said. That’s why we’ll make every effort to prove the predictions wrong. When do you think the elections will be? I don’t know. I’ll worry about early elections if I see the gap between New Democracy and PASOK reach 3 or 4 percent in favor of the incumbents. In that case, I assume [Prime Minister Costas] Karamanlis would make the most of the opportunity even before his party’s July congress. The government attributed [PASOK leader George] Papandreou’s initiative to an attempt to dampen dissent in PASOK about Article 16 and not to any significant political event. What is your response? That claim is completely baseless. All Greece knows that the three PASOK deputies who disagreed had voiced their view within the party for months without causing conflict. I can’t see where the problem is if [Evangelos] Venizelos, [Andreas] Loverdos and [Socrates] Cosmidis – and whoever else – did not adopt PASOK’s proposal at the plenary session as well. In PASOK, we respect the constitutional right of deputies to express their personal views. It is ND which showed it doesn’t tolerate that with the fuss they made over [Deputy Ioannis] Tragakis in the discussion about Article 24 of the Constitution. Did the three PASOK deputies dissent solely on ideological grounds? Was any personal strategy behind it? We all have personal strategies and whoever denies it is the worst kind of pharisee. Venizelos, Loverdos and Cosmidis are linked by the education issue. They have an obvious reason to be involved in the matter and, to an extent, to hold different views. Does your decision to abstain from the discussion of the constitutional revision mean that you will not vote for any articles in the next Parliament, regardless of the electoral outcome? Constitutional reform has failed because of ND’s intransigence. Whoever has the majority in the next Parliament, I consider it highly unlikely that we will reach agreement. We will have to start revising again from scratch. Even with Article 16, where the two major parties seem to agree? The way things are, I see no room for agreement. Though the revision of Article 16 seems to have fallen through, the protests and rallies are continuing. I’m sorry to say that union leaders are tolerating a confusion that they have artfully created between the revision of Article 16 and the problem at universities. I refer mainly to the representatives of POSDEP. I’m certain that the vast majority of the 3,000-4,000 demonstrators who attend rallies every week don’t have a clue what we’re talking about. Yesterday I heard the slogan «Article 16 shall not pass.» But Article 16 is precisely what safeguards the public nature of the university and free university education. Doesn’t POSDEP know why it is demonstrating? I think POSDEP represents a very small minority of academics. Are you suggesting they got elected by stealing votes? They’re not supported by the real majority of academics or students. The student elections were won by DAP, which, albeit with some reservations, supports university reform. If the education minister introduces an amendment to university asylum, will you vote for it? I shall vote according to my conscience for the provisions of the draft bill that I agree with. I am one the few hundred students who once managed to impose university asylum at the risk of our own physical safety. I have said – and I think I speak for the vast majority of citizens – that asylum is only a place where all views can be expressed freely. That is all it is, and it has nothing to do with the illegal acts we see every so often inside universities. Who is to blame for what we see going on at universities: the government of the day, the university authorities or the police? University asylum does not mean that the police cannot enter universities. I don’t see why order should not be policed at universities. Do you mean without the rector’s permission? Certainly. The University of Thessaloniki looks like a huge bazaar. Peddlers who are probably afraid to go to villages and squares sell anything you can think of in the most illegal fashion, without permits, without giving receipts, without paying taxes. How can all that be covered by university asylum while the police cannot go in to restore order? When we fought the National Radical Union (ERE) and the government of Constantine Karamanlis, we did it because there were undercover police spying on what we we did and said so as to add to our files. There was pressure to shape the political and academic opinion of the individual. That was the system we overturned. I can’t see that for the police to patrol university premises, as they patrol the streets, and to arrest those selling African statues would hinder the normal exchange of ideas. Unless what the exchange of ideas means these days is dirt, disorder and the destruction of public buildings, which is the state of affairs within universities.