Academics seek dialogue

A committee of hundreds of academics seeking to encourage debate about impending reforms to the state university sector yesterday condemned attempts by small groups of extremist students to disrupt university rector elections. «We call on politicians, families and taxpayers to condemn and isolate those who carry out, and cover up, acts of violence,» said a statement issued by the group, known as the «Committee of 1,000 Professors.» The appeal came as university students took to the streets to protest the implementation of reforms foreseeing the stricter administration of state universities and the creation of private universities. Rallies staged in central Athens and Thessaloniki were peaceful and relatively small, compared to the huge – and vociferous – protests seen last year when the reforms were first proposed. Another rally is planned for Athens tomorrow. Students also staged sit-ins at some 35 university faculties – down from several hundred faculties last year. The academics’ appeal was targeted at students believed to be from extreme-left factions that have been doing their best to disrupt ongoing university rector elections. The biggest problems were at the Technical University of Crete, where a group of students forcefully disrupted the elections, now postponed until June 5 and 6. It was attempts by such individuals to prevent fellow students from voting in rector elections that attracted the academic committee’s most fervent criticism. «This attack on the state university, being carried out by minority student groups and a small group of academics, has reached the point of crisis and of encroachment of essential democratic rules,» the committee said. The academics dismissed the actions of «groups, amassing just 3 percent or 5 percent in student elections, who grab ballot boxes and lock buildings because a full turnout at elections would diminish them even further.» The committee said debate on new education reforms should not be shunned but encouraged if the state system is not to be sidelined by a growing private education sector. «Other European countries are investigating new areas of knowledge and research, while we close our universities to hamper election turnouts and prevent long-term planning and assessment,» the academics remarked. Such tactics will merely weaken the state sector and allow the private sector to flourish in its place, they said.