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Greek Parliament Approves Historic Bill on Policing Universities

Police in Greek universities
“Marasleio Megaro”, the main building of Athens University of Economics and Business. Credit: Auebwebmaster/File licensed under the  Creative Commons Attribution/Wikipedia

The Greek Parliament approved on Thursday an education reform bill, which, among others, attempts to address the problem of university security.

The bill was approved with 166 lawmakers voting for and 132 against. All opposition parties, with the exception of extreme right Greek Solution party, rejected the bill.

The controversial provision that would allow police to patrol university campuses, was met with angry protests in Athens, Thessaloniki and elsewhere.

The new law also introduces a minimum entry requirement and maximum periods for students to complete their degrees.

“Our intention is to give state-run universities back to their natural owners – the students, the professors and university employees. To make it once again a hive of creativity and hub of fertile thought,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament.

“[We need to make universities] pioneers of the country’s growth and not an islet where the democratic state’s rules are inert and the will of any authoritarian minority can be imposed,” he added.

Mitsotakis underlined that the bill legislates for controlled access to university premises to prevent, as he said, turning them into “safehouses” for marginal groups.

“The schools will close their door to violence, opening the door to freedom.”

Strong opposition

Student organizations and opposition parties claim that the conservative government displays authoritarian tendencies and intends to silence critical thought and free expression by policing the universities.

Main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras described the bill as “monument to authoritarianism.”

“You are taking advantage of the crisis to impose a regime of fear and surveillance,” he told Mitsotakis.

He also noted that with this bill, the government is “making a gift to the country’s private colleges, as 24,000 students will be left out of public universities due to the reduction of admissions.”

Opposition Movement for Change (KINAL) leader Fofi Gennimata expressed her opposition to the the presence of police in universities and underlined that her party is in favor of protection but against a police state.

“We say ‘No’ to policemen with clubs and handcuffs inside schools, no to cameras in classes and surveillance with drones,” she said.

Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas told lawmakers that the law will not be implemented in practice.

He added that the government is “turning the universities further away from society’s needs and limits their capacity and to provide answers to the people’s problems and concerns.”

Ending anomie?

According to the Greek government, the decision to have campus security has been made in order to put an end to the anomie prevailing in higher education institutions.

On Greek campuses there has been no police presence which in some cases has led to anarchy, in which professors’ offices are routinely invaded, graffiti painted on walls and equipment vandalized.

In one famous case last October, a professor was assaulted and forced to wear a placard around his neck saying that he approved of the anarchists’ behavior.

Related: Greek Universities to be Guarded by Police in Historic Move

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