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Events in the past few months have proven that universities across Greece are becoming a safe heaven for whoever wants to make a stand against the Greek system, be it for educational, political, economic or social reasons. This time the activities of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki were paralysed for more than two weeks at the end of March, when the administration headquarters of the university was occupied by a group of youths, non-parliamentary leftwing organisations and other anarchist groups. The occupation was triggered by the university’s intention to hand its cleaning services to a private contractor. But, the protesters claimed, universities should have nothing to do with private providers that mistreat their employees, paying them very low wages while working in terrible conditions. Hence the occupation.
Under the law of the academic sanctuary in Greece, authorities cannot intervene within the university, unless criminal acts are being committed or if the university’s representatives expressly ask them to do so - a request that the university senate is reluctant to make, of fear not to spark public outrage. While the protest is not a violent one, it does prevent the university from fulfilling its duties.
Indeed, a university under police surveillance would be a contradiction in terms, especially in the fatherland of democracy. But at the same time, is it right for universities to be in a standstill each time someone finds something to protest against?