OPINION

Who will defend meritocracy?

Recent remarks by Deputy Education Minister Yiannis Panaretos, in which he condemned nepotism and vote-rigging in the elections of academic institutions, have sparked fury among the association of university professors. Evgenia Bournova, a senior official at the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP), said that there are only indications but no evidence of vote-rigging, and called on Panaretos to stop the mud-slinging. It is true that allegations are one thing and hard evidence is quite another. However, it is an open secret that university elections are heavily influenced by favoritism, ulterior motives and extensive horse trading. Recent reports said that an academic family of theologians were granting PhD and teaching positions to their relatives. Nepotism and preferential treatment is rife and, in fact, blatant within the prestigious and prosperous schools, such as those of medical and law studies. Often the best-equipped candidates are snubbed by the electorate bodies, who then choose candidates on the basis of seniority lists. In some cases, they will go as far as canceling voting or scrapping the teaching post altogether. According to the Constitution, if an independent academic institution is subject to this kind of humiliation, that is the responsibility of the professors, not the politician who points out the wrongdoing. That said, I find it hard to recall any public intervention by some member of the federation castigating such phenomena or criticizing the electoral bodies that break the law. Similarly, there has been no proposal in favor of the permanent participation on the electorate bodies of renowned diaspora professors, particularly in the schools of medicine, natural sciences or engineering. Even the institution of visiting professors is undermined by local academics. Greece’s responsible academics want to upgrade and modernize their institutions. A constant call for meritocracy coming from their side would be the best way to safeguard state universities.