Giving students and staff the vote

Greek university students are concerned about their futures. Student groups with party affiliations are also concerned about theirs. The last few crises at the country’s universities (takeovers of council meetings, interruptions of dean elections etc) should be of serious concern to the university community as well as to the political community. Student groups with party affiliations form a major chapter in modern Greek history. In fact, many leading personalities in the political, public administration, media and academic worlds were once activists in their student lives and contributed to bolstering the student movement as a forum for dialogue and an expression of new ideas, as well as a catalyst for political fermentation. But things have changed with time. Student groups have become pockets of power within the universities rather than advocates of dialogue and progress. They are known to give select students advanced knowledge of examination material; they influence the examination program; they demand student identity cards be given to people who are not enrolled; they even have a say over who will be given rooms in residence halls and demand that professors pass certain students who are in their favor, and more. The so-called «student dons» take advantage of the authority bestowed upon them to influence the election of deans and other authority figures, and essentially are given free rein to run universities as they like. The existence of exchanges having taken place between the leaders of these groups and candidate professors are well known. Therefore, when a rector, deputy rector, dean or department head is finally elected and tries to stand up to the demands of the student groups, he or she will pay, be it by (as we have seen recently) vandalization, interruptions of class, or even, ludicrously being attacked with yogurt. This is what the student movement looks like today, though there are a few exceptions. But those pulling the strings behind these students groups are beginning to understand that they are on shaky ground. This is because the new draft law proposes that all students and staff vote in student elections independently without having to go through representatives. The student and staff vote could be a watershed in the country’s academic life, as many institutions will be holding elections for rector at the end of this academic year. The time has come to put a stop to this shameful situation, which blackens the student movement, denigrates its role and contributes to the quagmire at Greek universities.