16 February 2021
Academics across Europe are calling for expressions of support for their colleagues in Greece, where the government recently passed a controversial new law introducing a special police force for universities. The law, which will see the recruitment of over 1,000 new officers who do not have to go through the usual three years of police training, has been justified on a number of grounds, including the false claim that similar forces exist in countries such as the UK. The bill was passed last week by the ruling New Conservative Party with support from the far-right Greek Solution party.
The article below was originally published in the February 2021 newsletter of the European Group for the Study of Deviance & Social Control.
Within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the health, economic, educational and cultural systems globally and the day-to-day lives of people around the world, the Greek academic community was suddenly informed in December 2020 that the Greek government has decided to establish a new police security force for universities under the name: “Squads for the Protection of Universities”. These squads are to be staffed with 1030 police officers who will not have graduated from the 3 years Police Academy degree, which was required so far in police hiring procedures. Rather they will be staffed through rapid hiring procedures of candidates that have declared an interest in becoming police officers. An issue that has also raised concerns within police unions. Despite the lack of proper training, these squads will have the authority to arrest, interrogate, prevent and address any ‘deviant’ or criminal behaviour.
Police stations are to be established within University premises and universities will be obliged to implement a system of restricted access on campuses, which is highly problematic as in some areas, University campuses are the only open-green spaces available to members of the wider community. University authorities will have to facilitate the new patrolling “Special Forces” in “all possible ways” to implement their duties, which include the systematic surveillance of the campus with special technological equipment (CCTV cameras, microphones etc) and the conduct of preliminary “crime” investigations.
Importantly and most worryingly, these squads will not answer to university authorities, as required so far by the autonomous character of universities. Instead, they will directly fall under the mandate of the Greek police. The costs however for their function will lie on the already limited budget of Greek Universities. These aspects are very distant from the protection of academic freedom that the bill alleges to support. Academic freedom entails freedom of scientific research and teaching as well as, the constitutional prerequisite of the fully autonomous nature of universities. Therefore, the fact that these squads will act and be managed and supervised by the Greek police renders this bill unconstitutional regarding the principle of university self-rule. The bill hinders academic freedom and transforms the Greek institutions of higher education in fortresses of control, repression and policing.
Pro-government media orchestrated during the previous months a slanderous campaign aiming to defame the universities and represent them to the Greek public as “centers of lawlessness” and delinquency, an allegation totally unfounded on relevant research or statistics. It also engaged coordinated attacks of defamation targeting the members of the academic community who are openly opposing the bill. Further, the Greek government has attempted to justify its bill through false pretences of ‘best practice’ stemming from examples in the Western World and particularly Oxford University. Such justifications could not be further from the truth and UCU Oxford has openly taken a stance against the bill, while denying the existence of University police force in its premises. It should be clearly noted that no police force is established in any European University. Rather, as is the current case in Greece, security personnel and porters under University’s authorities are responsible for security issues.
The Greek government intends to introduce the bill this month, without any discussion and debate with the academic community and institutions and even though all Greek university authorities, administrations, academics and students are openly against the bill.
We declare that we oppose the operation inside the University of any guard or security force not subjected to the control of University authorities. We oppose a bill that threatens and undermines democracy and obstructs the free circulation of ideas between Greek universities and Greek society.
We consider the funding of the squads from the universities’ budget provocative given the scarce resources available to Greek Universities for teaching, research and infrastructures. The employment of 1030 police officers for universities follows a decade of understaffing in teaching, research and administrative personnel and makes this provocation even more blatant. The fact that the Greek government has chosen to move forward with this bill at a time of a pandemic, where universities minimally function as physical sites for education and research and where there is limitation of the freedom of movement and the right to protest renders such action authoritarian and undemocratic.
We strongly oppose the Greek government’s plans in establishing a Police Security Force within Greek Universities.
Please send your signatures against the bill and in solidarity to Greek Academics to:
Signature collection: NoUniPolice [at] gmail.com
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