Observing the sorry state to which Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University has been reduced is truly heartbreaking. Was all the hard work for this? Maybe we need to hit rock bottom to understand the magnitude of the decline. On the other hand, we also have to acknowledge that a lot of good things are also happening within our educational institutions. The majority of educators and students have begun their own silent but creative revolution. They can no longer tolerate being crushed between nihilistic vandals and the professional politicos that many rectors have become after decades of compromising and give-and-take between political parties and the administrations of the country’s universities. The students want to learn; they want clean universities and teachers who love their jobs; they want the ammunition that will help them find a decent job later on. They are very well aware of the games being played and that the relationship between students and teachers with political agendas can only lead the institutions to a dead end.
In a rare moment of political bravery, the Greek political system found the courage to pass a law reforming state universities in a landslide vote. Those for whom the law means a loss of privileges, as well as the champions of violence and anomy, are now putting up a bitter fight to rescind the law, but the fact the the majority of universities’ educators participated in the recent elections for governing councils is a sign of hope that things are changing from within was well. This is no easy feat. There are people at today’s universities who were persecuted and tortured by the military dictatorship, who saw posters plastered to their institution’s walls lambasting them and who even received threats. Thankfully, they were undaunted.
It is inconceivable, however, that in the year 2012 there are those who want to impose their brand of fascism on universities in the name of battles fought by others – by much braver people – for free speech and the protection of human rights.
Greece will change whether the violent minorities and the nomenclature of mediocrity like it or not.
No country can achieve growth and competitiveness without good public universities, and research amply shows that good-quality education plays a crucial role in the battle against unemployment.
Sure, the situation today is far from ideal. Professors’ salaries have shrunk along with research budgets. Educators are struggling to make ends meet while at the same time trying to protect their institutions from the forces of destruction.
The fact that these creative and dynamic people are going into battle for an ideal in such difficult circumstances shows that the future of our children does not necessarily lie in the trash heap outside the Aristotle.