Rebels without a cause

Ever since Anna Diamantopoulou, the socialist education minister, first announced her intention to shake up the management and organization of universities and technical colleges, it became clear that those who were happy with the pathetic state of affairs would react.

The list includes rectors, senators, professors, academics, political parties and extra-parliamentarian groupuscules that have flourished with the help of the system. Sure, there are exceptions, but the number is big enough to ensure that the new academic year would begin with tension, both inside and around universities.

We all know about the rectors? initial reaction. They attacked the bill, invoked the classic arguments about universities selling out to private interests and slammed the passing of the bill in Parliament as a ?coup.?

As politicians insisted on the reforms and the public remained unconvinced by their — indeed frail — arguments, some of them changed their tactics. They asked for the bill not to be tabled until September, invoking the need for a public debate ahead of the vote. But, in fact, they were only trying to buy time so that students, at least those who have allied with them over the years, would join them in the planned mobilizations: Sitin protests, plundering university property and issuing threats against those who want to see Greece?s universities streamlined.

What the rectors did not expect, of course, was that the bill would be passed with the votes of 260 deputies, or about nine in 10 MPs. That means that those who are now shutting down universities and, once again, taking to the streets of Athens and other cities across the country are acting against the will of society and Parliament, while showing complete disregard for the laws of the state.

Instead of focusing on their academic duties, some rectors have threatened to resort to the Council of State to contest the law. Let them do so. But until the court issues a ruling, they have an obligation to obey the laws of the state, which, at the end of the day, pays for their bills. They have no right to play with the future of thousands of students and their family?s budgets.

There is no point in describing the mess our universities are in at the moment. Any reasonable person, with little experience as a student or professor in a foreign school, knows the truth about the matter: Greek universities have long relinquished their purpose.

Nevertheless, it?s hard to see how rectors and senators can not care when they see students wasting their time and money. How can they look at these kids and not feel ashamed?

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