Education must learn from the past

Greece’s state universities will never become truly European institutions unless the dominance of party affiliated student unions, a phenomenon which has its roots in the aftermath of the military dictatorship, comes to an end.

The disgraceful image of union members greeting first-year students at stalls displaying party insignia and assuming the role of a welcoming committee, is observed in no other country in the world. This is not to mention the banners, notices stuck on walls and student union leaders who saunter into lecture theaters and interrupt professors in order to make their announcements. These are all symptoms of the Greek university system?s gravest illness.

The government?s new university bill does come with a few glitches, especially with regards to certain grey areas such as the role of departments and the operation of management boards.

Nevertheless, the fact that the bill introduces the abolition of the student vote in the election of rectors as well as a list that in effect abolishes the student political parties are particularly positive and important measures.

It is telling that a lot of serious people, including leftists with a history of resistance to the junta, agree that the student vote, a democratic tool in its inception, ultimately turned into a mechanism of give-and-take, blackmail and opacity.

It is also telling that this practice cannot be found in any other long-standing democracy or decent education system for that matter.

The real pity, however, is that New Democracy is not supporting this absolutely vital reform of education.

The position of both the opposition party and its youth/student organization, ONNED, on issues such as university asylum, had nurtured some hope for a positive and responsible stance. Yet it now seems that the microcosm of partisan politics has prevailed once more, sacrificing political consensus in favor of party interests.

PASOK acted in a similar way in the past when it opposed a bill drafted by then Education Minister Marietta Giannakou. However, this is no excuse for yet another display of immaturity on behalf of our political leaders, who are still unable to accept the responsibility for and rectify the wrongs that have beleaguered this country since the 1980s.