Universities at the mercy of thieves

University officials and leftist students argued yesterday over whether the police should have been called in to investigate vandalism and theft at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), as it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of euros worth of equipment has been stolen from Greek universities this year alone. The disagreement between students and academics was sparked by an incident over the weekend, when vandals caused damage to the Applied Mathematics and Physical Sciences Department. A computer was also stolen during the raid. The university decided to ask police to look into the incident but this prompted a response yesterday by leftist students who are not affiliated to any of the parliamentary parties. They demonstrated outside the office of the NTUA’s vice rector, Gerasimos Spathis, and suggested that the vandalism may have been a ruse in order to lift the asylum law that prevents officers from entering university grounds. The students argued that a meeting of the senate should have been convened, as stipulated by the law. The academics, however, argued that the law allows police to intervene if a crime has been committed. The incident drew attention to the fact that a number of universities have recently been ransacked by vandals and thieves. It is estimated, for instance, that some 400,000 euros’ worth of items have been stolen from Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University since the start of the year. Ten days ago, thieves broke in to a lecture hall at the NTUA and stole a public address system worth 3,000 euros. Equipment worth 40,000 euros was stolen from the school’s Nuclear Science Laboratory at the start of the year. The NTUA actually includes in its annual budget losses of 150,000 euros that are expected to accrue from vandalism and theft. NTUA rector Constantinos Moutzouris identified the lack of security guards as the key factor behind the theft and vandalism. «Exactly two years ago, the Education Ministry accepted our demand and agreed to the hiring of 17 permanent guards,» he said. «We are still waiting for the guards to arrive.»

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