OPINION

Impunity at universities

Impunity at universities

The debate around violence and intimidation at Greek universities has been raging for years. Pundits often ask why the state as well as the institutions themselves have failed to crack down on rampant lawlessness on university campuses. Is it a case of a Gordian knot to be severed by the nascent university police force? Let’s put off answering that question for the moment.

Those who demand a politically correct answer are essentially ducking the question. When an academic is threatened, harassed or humiliated by students or unknown parties inside the institution that they work for, the police have a duty to enter university grounds and deal with it. However, incidents of that kind clearly indicate that there is a problem with the operation of the institution per se.

On very few occasions have university authorities taken disciplinary action against students who carried out violent acts against fellow students or staff. In the majority of cases that a student appeared before the disciplinary council of their university, it was because they were caught cheating in an exam. Furthermore, the heftiest penalty to be handed down for such an offense is being deprived of the opportunity to retake the exam at the next sitting. Wrongdoers are habitually treated with leniency by Greek universities because, in what resembles a distorted perception of democracy, every student appears to deserve a second chance or a pass mark. 

However, when it comes to harassment, the institution must possess the rigor and the political courage to safeguard law and order and impose strict penalties when due. Those hooded students are not kids but citizens with the right to vote. Additionally, the question of whether you must punish a student who beats or threatens their professor is not an ideological one. Indeed, what happened to those students who held professors hostage or hung a sign on the rector’s neck simply because he happened to hold a different opinion? What happened to those students who persecuted professors?

The fear experienced by university professors anxious not to upset those who hold extreme political views has a poisonous effect on the institutions; it leads to navel-gazing and intolerance. That said, the professors should not complain too much, for they too are responsible for this regime of impunity.