Friday, December 8

University campuses burn in Greece

A bloody fight at gunpoint took place on the night of July 10 inside the campus of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Fight in which more than 30 people were involved, with shootings and one injured, a 23-year-old of Georgian origin although with Greek documents who is recovering in the hospital guarded by the Police. It has been disclosed that he has a criminal record related to drug dealing. It has been one more example of the violence and illegal activities (generally related to theft and prohibited sales, drugs or sex) that have been taking place for weeks on various Greek campuses in Athens and Thessaloniki, usually at night. “This scene has had nothing to do with the university, it has been a settling of accounts between foreigners,” said the Minister of Education, Niki Keraméos. Among the protagonists of this incident were many Africans and citizens from the former USSR, who are the ones who sell drugs to students. A pitched battle Violent and illegal incidents take place on this campus in Greece’s second largest city on a daily basis. But also other things: the university authorities decided to recover a space in their facilities, the so-called Peña (in Greek ‘stéki’) of Biology in the Faculty of Sciences that had been ‘squatted’ for 34 years by anti-systems and anarchists, a place where even they prepared Molotov cocktails and stored stones and sticks to use in demonstrations. A secret operation was organized last December 31 to clean the premises and transform it into a library, something that was applauded by the Government, the majority of teachers and students and by the Greek public opinion, opposed to this type of anarchy. But there were many protests: when the works began, a group of hooded youths dressed in black appeared to prevent the large premises from being emptied. The police riot police arrived, to whom the university authorities turned, and there was a pitched battle. And when the first phase of the library was finished, some 70 people tore down walls, smashed windows and smashed everything that was new in the early hours of May 9. Problems for the rector Nikos Papaioanu, the rector of this university -which has 11 faculties and a total of 40 departments- denounced that it was an organized act that destroys a project financed by the State, approved unanimously by the faculty of the college. And he complied with the current law that establishes that when a criminal act is committed, the Police intervene. Ironies of life: Papaioanou had been elected rector under the motto of “safety for the university community and innovation.” He fights daily alongside his teachers to keep his real students, teaching staff, and facilities safe. Vanguelis, a doctoral student, confirms to ABC that since the university is in the center of the city and with insufficient surveillance, whoever wants to enter at the time they want. “Corpses, stolen cars, drug addicts, prostitutes, some raped girl… you can find everything.” He recalls that the student associations have so far had a lot of power and little has been done against the Greek and foreign anarchist and anti-system groups that find the campus an ideal habitat for their misdeeds. Until now, the university asylum remains something sacred for many students and teachers, partly due to the memory of the tanks of the Military Junta that entered the Polytechnic University of Athens on November 17, 1975, starting a revolt that ended with almost forty dead but that began the fall of the dictatorship. In recent years, the Police can only enter university campuses and buildings if their authorities request it. Groups of teachers and students argue that the presence of the Police is contrary to freedom of expression. Thefts in classrooms Others, fed up with the constant material damage and thefts in their amphitheaters, classrooms and laboratories, with physical threats to teaching staff, burning their cars, lack of security and other miseries, ask that the campuses be monitored, controlled the entrances and expel the eternal students who have been enrolled for more than ten years without finishing their degrees. A reform was approved with broad consensus years ago that, with the radicals, was abandoned. Now the Conservatives have carried out – with their majority – a new one months ago, including the presence of a type of University Police, which has not yet been applied. It seems that this new Police will be a reality in the most conflictive universities next fall: that of Athens –at its Zoográfu campus, in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital–, and that of Thessaloniki will be the first. “Walking around my college campus at sunset is terrifying. It’s not lit, the building is isolated, no one feels safe.” Sofía says it, in the third year of Philosophy and Letters in Athens. She denounces that there is hustle and bustle, even girls harassed by strangers, but that the solution is not a University Police: «It will bring more control and chaos, but not security. There should be better lighting and staff from the university itself to take care of its campus and each center decide how to improve the situation. Because except in Athens (including the Pándio University, the Polytechnic University and the ASOE Economics University) and Thessaloniki, calm and reasonable order reign in the rest of the campuses.

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