In the midst of crisis, Greece needs its universities now more than ever – but Greek universities cannot serve their country. With a new university law in limbo, they are decaying, increasingly paralysed, barely operating. Ideally, they should be spearheading an effective response to the debt crisis, primarily by educating qualified, self-confident and productive young people. Instead, the universities actually look like the most hopeless component of the Greek crisis.
The passage of Law 4009 in August last year by an overwhelming majority of more than 260 MPs (or 87 per cent in a parliament of 300) understandably created great expectations, despite the flaws and ambiguities of the legislation. But the law is not being enforced and faculty and students now appear more frustrated and demoralised than ever. With reform blocked at home, they can only seek (or dream of) prospects abroad.
For the past few months, organised violence has prevented the holding of elections for the new university authorities foreseen by the law, except in seven polytechnics, thereby blocking the implementation of the other provisions. The violence has been orchestrated by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the radical Left party Syriza and groups of the extraparliamentary Left, in collusion with the sitting university rectors and their associates among the faculty. One such official at the University of Crete was thus recently heard boasting (by a colleague of mine) that every time he is against a meeting or other event, he only has to call the Syriza youth organisation to break it up. As this example amply demonstrates, both the mentality and the method are typically fascist, even though the storm troopers and flying squads moving from one university town to the next are supplied by nominally left-wing parties and groups.