Asylum abuse

Abuse is the worst enemy of rights. The latest proof came with the controversy over university asylum legislation. Few would raise the issue were it not for the unfortunate events that have marred the law in public conscience. Asylum legislation was introduced at a time when people were concerned about protecting the free exchange of ideas against state repression. The threat is now gone. Television democracy can employ more indirect, albeit more effective, ways to ensure consent. In the age of the Internet the asylum principle has lost its original meaning, but it’s still useful. It reinforces that sense of freedom that runs through the concept of university community. What we need to do is not abolish the law but rather put a curb on its systematic and blatant abuse. A democracy should always leave space for more militant manifestations of student movements, even if that means upsetting the curriculum. But that does not mean that certain groups have a free rein. The truth is sit-ins have not always been held for a serious cause. Also, quality is tied to quantity. It’s OK for thousands of protesters to block the streets. But it isn’t when 100 or 200 block traffic. Some people object plans to change the law, claiming that it does not bind the hands of rectors. But that is not true in practice. Virtually all university rectors over the previous decades have been unwilling or unable to defend the smooth operation of institutions and public property. It’s not incompetence, but more the way in which rectors are elected. Universities cannot provide asylum for every kind of ideology-driven abuse. Those who claim that things must stay as they are doing a huge disservice. Unless swift action is taken, pressure to abolish university immunity altogether will intensify. The average Greek stands to lose the most as state universities continue their decline.