It’s hard to disagree with what Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said in Parliament Tuesday regarding government plans to police universities. “No one wants to see the police on university grounds. However, a rector’s responsibility to enforce the law alone was a plan that has not been backed up by facts. Universities have failed to deal with lawlessness. If we all continue to turn a blind eye every time a sign is hung around a rector’s neck, this sort of lawlessness will persist. The government is not willing to sweep this humiliation of democracy under the carpet. [Installing] police on campuses is an act of need, not an ideological choice,” he said.
Indeed, no one is happy at the presence of police on campuses. One can only hope that one day, the rectors of the country’s biggest universities, which every now and then turn into zones of lawlessness, will be able to secure their institutions without help from the Hellenic Police.
To be sure, the rules pertaining to the police presence at universities must be transparent, clear and stricter than usual. There must be zero tolerance of abuse of power. However, the current situation must come to an end. It is unacceptable that a small minority of troublemakers are able to hold an entire academic community to ransom. It is unacceptable that university buildings have been occupied for decades to accommodate Molotov cocktail making, drug dealing and seminars on political extremism. It is unacceptable that professors are physically abused or walled up inside their offices with bricks in a supposed act of protest, all that within a space that is designed to promote the free exchange of ideas.
On this issue also society appears to be moving ahead of the political parties, or even academics for that matter. The latter in fact recently opposed the idea of university police when two out of three citizens said they were in favor (92 percent of New Democracy voters, 84 percent of Movement for Change voters, and 39 percent of SYRIZA voters).
“The next Korkoneas is being incubated,” said SYRIZA MP Nikos Filis, a former education minister, in reference to Epaminondas Korkoneas, a police special guard convicted of the deadly shooting in December 2008 of teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos in downtown Athens. The Left must finally assume its responsibilities for the lawlessness at public universities, which are incapable of providing the right learning environment to the children of the non-privileged. If they wish, the children of the privileged can always study in a foreign institution.