Are they a bastion of knowledge and free speech? Are they a hotbed for fresh ideas? Sure, no one can deny that Greek universities are these things also. However, it’s hard to see why the tone is set by “small minorities,” a description popular among university officials. Even though the attacks on professors – like, more recently, the targeting of Panteion University Professor Angelos Syrigos – generate anger among the wider population, it’s hard to see why authorities somehow fail to punish the perpetrators. It’s hard to see why authorities tolerate groups plastering “Wanted” posters featuring academics as wild west outlaws or circulating leaflets with titles such as “The eight scumbags of Panteion University” to indicate educators who are not to their liking. Threats, verbal assaults, attacks – again and again. On one hand, we have a succession of such incidents and, on the other, we have idle disciplinary councils that do very little but protest.
In a recent post on social media, Syrigos provided a detailed description of an ailing system as he experienced it personally – from the police failing to handle an incident that did not even take place on university grounds to the threats directed at judges dealing with such cases. “Certain tiny minorities which, using violent means, want to determine our views, our expression, our way of life, our very freedom,” he said, decrying these groups. What’s more, to some extent at least, they succeed.
That said, reactions are growing among students who hate to see their academic life discredited. More and more are reacting to the raids at university lecture halls and speaking out against the bullying. Alongside the mess, there is a daily routine of conferences, lectures and classes, of students engaging in research and development in line with their foreign peers.
We are faced with two opposite forces. On one side, you have a group of people working clandestinely but still managing to inflict evident blows. On the other, you have those who are trying to make things work, but living under a constant threat for the same reason.
However, the functioning of the system officially known as higher education should not rely on the loyalty of students and professors. We need a legal and administrative framework, and a clear political will from the government. But for the time being it’s hard to say who is the victim and who is the offender in the eyes of government officials.