Lecturers protest destruction of the university

More than 1,000 university lecturers have signed a text protesting against the destruction of the Greek university. Meanwhile, the education minister issued an ultimatum to striking administrative staff, saying that if they failed to assess themselves electronically within five days in order to enter ‘voluntary suspension’ they would face immediate redundancy.

Administrators have been on strike for seven weeks. The university job cuts are part of the government’s civil service austerity drive to fix Greece’s deep economic woes.

But several universities closed their doors in opposition to planned administrative staff losses of nearly 50%, saying that their institutions would be rendered inoperable.

An editorial board that undertook to write the academics’ protest text, pointed out that according to the Greek constitution, university lecturers and administrative staff carry out public duty. They questioned exactly what ‘public duty’ meant in terms of their everyday duties, and posed a number of further questions, such as:

  • • What do we do when we face new students who are the product of a system that has nullified the educational process in secondary education?
  • • What do we do when the number of teachers is constantly reduced, staff get older and consequently more conservative, while correspondingly teaching demands become increasingly more demanding?
  • • What do we do when universities do not have the necessary funds to finance any but the most essential activities?
  • • What do we do when the government and the mass media, in perfect unison, systematically slander universities?
  • • What do we do when colleagues from abroad contribute to this situation, appearing as saviours of the Greek university?
  • • What do we do when we ourselves see all the shortcomings, but because of the general attack on the Greek university we decide against speaking and acting?
  • • What do we do when the government makes administrative staff redundant, bringing institutions to complete paralysis?
  • • What do we do when we know that sooner or later it will be the turn of teaching staff?
  • • What do we do when we witness daily conflict between rectors and management committee members for the redistribution of power, while the real problems of universities are ignored?
  • • What do we do when colleagues are called to defend themselves because they carried out trade union duties; what do we do when we witness daily the contraction of basic democratic rights?

The academics go on to say that in similar circumstances, other sections of the community would expect trade unions to defend their rights.

However in their case the trade union POSDEP – the Hellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations – not only staunchly supported government policies for the break-up of universities but also appears to be “the most pro-government trade union in Greece”.

The authors of the text appealed to colleagues who have signed it to stand against:
  • • Further administrative staff redundancies.
  • • Transformation of the senior high school into a simple examination centre.
  • • Destruction of the state university and its privatisation.

They also called on the signatories to find new ways to promote their demands and not to restrict their activity simply to signing the text but to take specific action that would make the application of the government’s measures difficult if not impossible.

The authors finally stated: “It is certain that there is a real danger that we should be thought rather quaint. Our aim is not to pursue isolated activities but the start of a new method of collective reaction aiming to reveal the possibilities that arise from the exercise of our public duty.

“Political disobedience, a basic right of all citizens but even more so of all those who exercise public duty, could become a new form of solidarity which could come to supplement other already existing ones.”

But the government, through Education Minister Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, insisted that administrative staff would be summarily dismissed if they did not voluntarily submit self-assessments within five days in order to be placed in a suspension regime that will lead to their redundancy in the not too distant future.

Athens University professor of the constitution George Katrougalos, however, argued that staff could not be expected to carry out normal or additional duties while on official strike.