Universities ask for protection

The rectors of five major state universities yesterday issued a joint appeal to the government, and the academic community, to take the necessary measures to avert further unrest in the higher education sector which has been rocked by violence over the past two weeks. «The Greek state university has suffered a series of assaults which have downgraded and discredited it while public concern about its future is constantly mounting,» said the statement issued by the rectors of the Athens University of Economics and Business, the Ionian University and the universities of Thessaly, Patras and Crete. «It is the duty of the university community but also, and primarily, of politicians and social groups to safeguard the dignity and academic values of the state university,» the statement added. In a carefully worded response to the rectors’ appeal yesterday, government spokes-man Theodoros Roussopoulos said the government could intervene, «if individual university rectors request it, on a case-by-case basis.» The rectors’ appeal was largely a reaction to outbreaks of violence that have marred rector elections at universities across the country. Yesterday elections at Athens University’s sciences faculty were disrupted by leftist students who burst into the polling area and removed ballot boxes. Last week two incidents shook Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University: On Wednesday the university’s rector was knocked unconscious during a scuffle with students who disrupted a session of the university senate and on Friday two university guards were badly beaten by unidentified youths. Today the Inner Cabinet is to discuss a bill drafted by Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis that aims to upgrade postgraduate degrees from state universities by boosting their cooperation with foreign universities.