OPINION

Public disgrace

Last week’s commentary was about nepotism and the lack of meritocracy at public universities. It was a generalized comment, without specifics. We had, however, mentioned the bastions of nepotism: the Athens schools of medicine, law and theology. Recent research has confirmed these suspicions with numbers. And the numbers are lamentable. Even more light has been shed on the lack of meritocracy that paralyzes Greece’s medical school and university clinics in a recent publication by medical school Professor Haralampos Moutsopoulos, titled «Small Stories of a Long Journey» (Mikres istories… makras porias). The internationally acclaimed researcher and clinician sets out the wealth of adventures he has experienced in Greek academia and these are often disheartening: rigged elections for professors, deans and department chiefs that manipulate entire electoral bodies, votes purchased with hard cash or through coercion, MPs and ministers who cook up academic distinctions and special unmerited privileges. The professor’s stories, in which he sometimes even gives names and points the finger at well-known personalities, are all real and they are a kick in the gut for the reader, the citizen who has been taught to respect university professors and doctors who have taken the Hippocratic Oath, and whose taxes go to universities. There is little the Ministry of Education can do, because Greek universities are self-managed and constitutionally protected. The credibility of an educational institution, therefore, lies in the people who teach there. Are they up to the task? In fact, in these difficult times for the country – and such phenomena are partly to blame – it is the duty of every university staff member to elect the best people for each post, to create an environment of excellence rather than mediocrity and to be models of fair-mindedness for their students. In times of crisis, constants are challenged: For example, corruption is brought to light and the disgrace is made public. This kind of publicity can make victims of the innocent but at least it also credits some of the disgrace to the guilty parties. And once the guilty within the universities are tarnished, maybe some of the disgrace will pass onto the politicians who act in the same manner.