• Academic freedom is in crisis ; free speech is not

    In August 2020, the UK think tank The Policy Exchange produced a report on Academic Freedom in the UK (https://policyexchange.org.uk/publication/academic-freedom-in-the-uk-2), alleging a chilling effect for staff and students expressing conservative opinions, particularly pro-Brexit or ‘gender critical’ ideas. This is an issue that was examined by a 2018 parliamentary committee on Human Rights which found a lack of evidence for serious infringements of free speech (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201719/jtselect/jtrights/1279/127904.htm). In a university context, freedom of speech is protected under the Human Rights Act 1998 as long as the speech is lawful and does not contravene other university regulations on issues like harassment, bullying or inclusion. Some of these controversies have been firmly rebutted by Chris Parr (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/free-speech-crisis-uk-universities-chris-parr) and others who describe how the incidents have been over-hyped.

    Despite this, the government seems keen to appoint a free speech champion for universities (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/15/tories-war-on-the-woke-ministers-statues-protests) which continues a campaign started by #Sam_Gyimah (https://academicirregularities.wordpress.com/2018/07/06/sams-on-campus-but-is-the-campus-onto-sam) when he was minister for universities in 2018, and has been interpreted by some commentators as a ‘war on woke’. In the current climate of threats to university autonomy, many vice chancellors wonder whether this might be followed by heavy fines or reduced funding for those institutions deemed to fall on the wrong side of the culture wars.

    While public concern has been directed to an imagined crisis of free speech, there are more significant questions to answer on the separate but related issue of academic freedom. Most university statutes echo legislation and guarantee academics ‘freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial and unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at their institutions.’ [Section 202 of the Education Reform Act 1988]. In reality, these freedoms are surrendered to the greater claims of academic capitalism, government policy, legislation, managers’ responses to the pandemic and more dirigiste approaches to academics’ work.

    Nevertheless, this government is ploughing ahead with policies designed to protect the freedom of speech that is already protected, while doing little to hold university managers to account for their very demonstrable violations of academic freedom. The government is suspicious of courses which declare a sympathy with social justice or which manifest a ‘progressive’ approach. This hostility also extends to critical race theory and black studies. Indeed, the New York Times has identified a right wing ‘Campaign to Cancel Wokeness’ (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/26/opinion/speech-racism-academia.html) on both sides of the Atlantic, citing a speech by the UK Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch, in which she said, “We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt…Any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

    This has now set a tone for ideological oversight which some university leaders seem keen to embrace. Universities will always wish to review their offerings to ensure they reflect academic currency and student choice. However, operating under the cover of emergency pandemic planning, some are now seeking to dismantle what they see as politically troublesome subject areas.

    Let’s start with the most egregious and transparent attack on academic freedom. The University of Leicester Business School, known primarily for its disdain of management orthodoxy, has announced it will no longer support research in critical management studies (https://www.uculeicester.org.uk/redundancy-briefing) and political economy, and the university has put all researchers who identify with this field, or who at some time might have published in CMS, at risk of redundancy. Among the numerous responses circulating on Twitter, nearly all point to the fact that the critical orientation made Leicester Business School distinctive and attractive to scholars wishing to study and teach there. Among those threatened with redundancy is the distinguished former dean, Professor Gibson Burrell. The sheer volume of protest at this anomaly must be an embarrassment to Leicester management. We should remember that academic freedom means that, as a scholar of proven expertise, you have the freedom to teach and research according to your own judgement. When those in a field critical of structures of power have their academic freedom removed, this is, unarguably, a breach of that expectation. Such a violation should be of concern to the new freedom of speech champion and to the regulator, the Office for Students.

    If the devastation in the School of Business were not enough humiliation for Leicester, in the department of English, there are plans to cancel scholarship and teaching in Medieval and Early Modern literature. The thoughtless stripping out of key areas that give context and coherence within a subject is not unique to Leicester – similar moves have taken place in English at University of Portsmouth. At Leicester, management have offered the justification that this realignment will allow them to put resources towards the study of gender and sexuality. After all, the Vice Chancellor, Nishan Canagarajah, offered the keynote speech at the Advance HE conference in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion on 19th March (https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/programmes-events/conferences/EDIConf20#Keynotes) and has signalled that he supports decolonising the curriculum. This might have had more credibility if he was not equally committed to extinguishing critical scholarship in the Business School. The two positions are incompatible and reveal an opportunistic attempt to reduce costs and remove signs of critical scholarship which might attract government disapproval.

    At the University of Birmingham, the response to the difficulties of maintaining teaching during the pandemic has been to issue a ruling that three academic staff must be able to teach each module. The explanation for this apparent reversal of the ‘lean’ principle of staffing efficiency, is to make modules more resilient in the face of challenges like the pandemic – or perhaps strike action. There is a consequence for academic freedom though – only the most familiar, established courses can be taught. Courses that might have been offered, which arise from the current research of the academic staff, will have to be cancelled if the material is not already familiar to other colleagues in the department. It is a way of designing innovation and advancement out of courses at the University of Birmingham.

    Still at Birmingham, UCU is contesting a proposal for a new ‘career framework’ (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/strike-warning-over-birminghams-or-out-probation-plan) by management characterised as ‘up or out’. It will require newly appointed lecturers to achieve promotion to senior lecturer within five years or face the sort of performance management procedures that could lead to termination of their appointment. The junior academics who enter on these conditions are unlikely to gamble their careers on academic risk-taking or pursue a challenge to an established paradigm. We can only speculate how this apprenticeship in organisational obedience might restrain the pursuit of discovery, let alone achieve the management’s stated aim to “develop and maintain an academic culture of intellectual stimulation and high achievement”.

    Meanwhile at the University of Liverpool, Vice Chancellor Janet Beer is attempting to apply research metrics and measures of research income over a five-year period to select academics for redundancy in the Faculty of Life Sciences. Staff have been threatened with sacking and replacement by those felt to hold more promise. It will be an unwise scholar who chooses a niche field of research which will not elicit prime citations. Astoundingly, university mangers claim that their criteria are not in breach of their status as a signatory to the San Fransisco Declaration on Research Assessment (https://news.liverpool.ac.uk/2021/03/08/project-shape-update). That is correct insofar as selection for redundancy by grant income is clearly such dishonorable practice as to have been placed beyond contemplation by the international board of DORA.

    It seems we are reaching a pivotal moment for academic freedom for higher education systems across the world. In #Arkansas and some other states in the #USA, there are efforts to prohibit the teaching of social justice (https://www.chronicle.com/article/no-social-justice-in-the-classroom-new-state-scrutiny-of-speech-at-public).

    In #France, the education minister has blamed American critical race theory (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/france-about-become-less-free/617195) for undermining France’s self-professed race-blindness and for causing the rise of “islamo-gauchisme”, a term which has been cynically deployed to blunt any critique of structural racism.

    In Greece, universities are now bound by law to ensure policing and surveillance of university campuses (https://www.crimetalk.org.uk/index.php/library/section-list/1012-exiting-democracy-entering-authoritarianism) by ‘squads for the protection of universities’ in order to suppress dissent with the Orwellian announcement that the creation of these squads and the extensive surveillance of public Universities are “a means of closing the door to violence and opening the way to freedom” and an assertion that “it is not the police who enter universities, but democracy”.


    It occurs to me that those public figures who feel deprived of a platform to express controversial views may well be outnumbered by the scholars whose universities allow their work to be suppressed by targeted intellectual purges, academic totalitarianism and metric surveillance. It is telling that assaults on academic freedom in the UK have not attracted comment or action from the organisations which might be well placed to defend this defining and essential principle of universities. I hereby call on Universities UK, the Office for Students and the freedom of speech champion to insist on an independent audit of academic freedom and autonomy for each higher education institution.

    We now know where intervention into the rights of academics to teach and research autonomously may lead. We also know that many of the candidates targeted for redundancy are UCU trade union officials; this has happened at University of East London and the University of Hull. Make no mistake, this is a PATCO moment (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/05/reagan-fires-11-000-striking-air-traffic-controllers-aug-5-1981-241252) for higher education in the UK as management teams try to break union support and solidarity in order to exact greater control in the future.

    Universities are the canary down the mine in an era of right-wing authoritarianism. We must ensure that they can maintain their unique responsibility to protect against the rise of populism and the dismantling of democracy. We must be assertive in protecting the rights of academics whose lawful and reasoned opinions are increasingly subject to some very sinister threats. Academic freedom needs to be fought for, just like the right to protest and the right to roam. That leaves a heavy responsibility for academics if the abolition of autonomy and academic freedom is not to be complete.

    #liberté_académique #liberté_d'expression #UK #Angleterre #université #facs #justice_sociale #black_studies #races #race #approches_critiques #études_critiques #privilège_blanc #économie_politique #Leicester_Business_School #pandémie #crise_sanitaire #Birmingham #Liverpool #Janet_Beer #concurrence #Grèce #Etats-Unis #métrique #attaques #éducation_supérieure #populisme #démocratie #autonomie #canari_dans_la_mine

    ping @isskein @cede

    • The Campaign to Cancel Wokeness. How the right is trying to censor critical race theory.

      It’s something of a truism, particularly on the right, that conservatives have claimed the mantle of free speech from an intolerant left that is afraid to engage with uncomfortable ideas. Every embarrassing example of woke overreach — each ill-considered school board decision or high-profile campus meltdown — fuels this perception.

      Yet when it comes to outright government censorship, it is the right that’s on the offense. Critical race theory, the intellectual tradition undergirding concepts like white privilege and microaggressions, is often blamed for fomenting what critics call cancel culture. And so, around America and even overseas, people who don’t like cancel culture are on an ironic quest to cancel the promotion of critical race theory in public forums.

      In September, Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget ordered federal agencies to “begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’” which it described as “un-American propaganda.”

      A month later, the conservative government in Britain declared some uses of critical race theory in education illegal. “We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt,” said the Tory equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch. “Any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

      Some in France took up the fight as well. “French politicians, high-profile intellectuals and journalists are warning that progressive American ideas — specifically on race, gender, post-colonialism — are undermining their society,” Norimitsu Onishi reported in The New York Times. (This is quite a reversal from the days when American conservatives warned darkly about subversive French theory.)

      Once Joe Biden became president, he undid Trump’s critical race theory ban, but lawmakers in several states have proposed their own prohibitions. An Arkansas legislator introduced a pair of bills, one banning the teaching of The Times’s 1619 Project curriculum, and the other nixing classes, events and activities that encourage “division between, resentment of, or social justice for” specific groups of people. “What is not appropriate is being able to theorize, use, specifically, critical race theory,” the bills’ sponsor told The Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

      Republicans in West Virginia and Oklahoma have introduced bills banning schools and, in West Virginia’s case, state contractors from promoting “divisive concepts,” including claims that “the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.” A New Hampshire Republican also proposed a “divisive concepts” ban, saying in a hearing, “This bill addresses something called critical race theory.”

      Kimberlé Crenshaw, a pioneering legal scholar who teaches at both U.C.L.A. and Columbia, has watched with alarm the attempts to suppress an entire intellectual movement. It was Crenshaw who came up with the name “critical race theory” when organizing a workshop in 1989. (She also coined the term “intersectionality.”) “The commitment to free speech seems to dissipate when the people who are being gagged are folks who are demanding racial justice,” she told me.

      Many of the intellectual currents that would become critical race theory emerged in the 1970s out of disappointment with the incomplete work of the civil rights movement, and cohered among radical law professors in the 1980s.
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      The movement was ahead of its time; one of its central insights, that racism is structural rather than just a matter of interpersonal bigotry, is now conventional wisdom, at least on the left. It had concrete practical applications, leading, for example, to legal arguments that housing laws or employment criteria could be racist in practice even if they weren’t racist in intent.

      Parts of the critical race theory tradition are in tension with liberalism, particularly when it comes to issues like free speech. Richard Delgado, a key figure in the movement, has argued that people should be able to sue those who utter racist slurs. Others have played a large role in crafting campus speech codes.

      There’s plenty here for people committed to broad free speech protections to dispute. I’m persuaded by the essay Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote in the 1990s challenging the movement’s stance on the first amendment. “To remove the very formation of our identities from the messy realm of contestation and debate is an elemental, not incidental, truncation of the ideal of public discourse,” he wrote.

      Disagreeing with certain ideas, however, is very different from anathematizing the collective work of a host of paradigm-shifting thinkers. Gates’s article was effective because he took the scholarly work he engaged with seriously. “The critical race theorists must be credited with helping to reinvigorate the debate about freedom of expression; even if not ultimately persuaded to join them, the civil libertarian will be much further along for having listened to their arguments and examples,” he wrote.

      But the right, for all its chest-beating about the value of entertaining dangerous notions, is rarely interested in debating the tenets of critical race theory. It wants to eradicate them from public institutions.

      “Critical race theory is a grave threat to the American way of life,” Christopher Rufo, director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank once known for pushing an updated form of creationism in public schools, wrote in January.

      Rufo’s been leading the conservative charge against critical race theory. Last year, during an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, he called on Trump to issue an executive order abolishing “critical race theory trainings from the federal government.” The next day, he told me, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, called him and asked for his help putting an order together.

      Last month, Rufo announced a “new coalition of legal foundations and private attorneys that will wage relentless legal warfare against race theory in America’s institutions.” A number of House and Senate offices, he told me, are working on their own anti-critical race theory bills, though none are likely to go anywhere as long as Biden is president.

      As Rufo sees it, critical race theory is a revolutionary program that replaces the Marxist categories of the bourgeois and the proletariat with racial groups, justifying discrimination against those deemed racial oppressors. His goal, ultimately, is to get the Supreme Court to rule that school and workplace trainings based on the doctrines of critical race theory violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

      This inversion, casting anti-racist activists as the real racists, is familiar to Ian Haney López, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in critical race theory. “There’s a rhetoric of reaction which seeks to claim that it’s defending these higher values, which, perversely, often are the very values it’s traducing,” he said. “Whether that’s ‘In the name of free speech we’re going to persecute, we’re going to launch investigations into particular forms of speech’ or — and I think this is equally perverse — ‘In the name of fighting racism, we’re going to launch investigations into those scholars who are most serious about studying the complex forms that racism takes.’”

      Rufo insists there are no free speech implications to what he’s trying to do. “You have the freedom of speech as an individual, of course, but you don’t have the kind of entitlement to perpetuate that speech through public agencies,” he said.

      This sounds, ironically, a lot like the arguments people on the left make about de-platforming right-wingers. To Crenshaw, attempts to ban critical race theory vindicate some of the movement’s skepticism about free speech orthodoxy, showing that there were never transcendent principles at play.

      When people defend offensive speech, she said, they’re often really defending “the substance of what the speech is — because if it was really about free speech, then this censorship, people would be howling to the high heavens.” If it was really about free speech, they should be.


      #droite #gauche #censure #cancel_culture #micro-agressions #Trump #Donald_Trump #Kemi_Badenoch #division #critical_race_theory #racisme #sexisme #Kimberlé_Crenshaw #Crenshaw #racisme_structurel #libéralisme #Richard_Delgado #Christopher_Rufo #Ian_Haney_López

    • No ‘Social Justice’ in the Classroom: Statehouses Renew Scrutiny of Speech at Public Colleges

      Blocking professors from teaching social-justice issues. Asking universities how they talk about privilege. Analyzing students’ freedom of expression through regular reports. Meet the new campus-speech issues emerging in Republican-led statehouses across the country, indicating potential new frontiers for politicians to shape campus affairs.


  • Exiting democracy, entering authoritarianism: state control, policing and surveillance in Greek universities

    A bill regarding the “safety” and policing of Greek universities, among other issues, was voted on the 11th of February 2021, by 166 MPs from New Democracy, the right-wing ruling party, and Greek Solution, a far-right party, despite the unanimous opposition of left-wing parties (132 MPs), the Greek academic and student community and police unions. It came in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which has arguably been an extremely difficult, painful, insecure, traumatic and challenging situation that has affected everyone’s life, including economic, health and cultural systems around the world. That context is accompanied by an extremely uncertain, obscure and blurry future that heightens insecurity globally and locally. The education system has been particularly affected with universities being closed for over a year; teaching is only taking place virtually (with detrimental effects on the mental health of both teaching staff and students); and where it is extremely difficult due to social distancing regulations for the educational community to come together, discuss and exchange views on pressing matters regarding the future of Higher Education.

    What does the bill entail?

    The bill “Admission into Higher Education, Protection of Academic Freedom, Upgrading of the Academic Environment and further provisions”, which became law (4477/2021) on the 17th of February 2021, requires from all Higher Education institutions the implementation of security systems such as: the surveillance and recording of both image and sound (CCTV cameras, microphones etc) on open and closed University spaces; movement censors and alarm systems; restricted access to university spaces only for university staff and students or even biometric controls at the entrances; electronic detection systems for illegal substances and objects; and Control Centers for Signals and Images to be established within University premises.

    The law also dictates the introduction of both Units and Committees for “Safety and Protection”, as well as Disciplinary Councils for Students together with a list of a variety of disciplinary offences. The former will be responsible for the drafting, implementation, assessment and management of security agendas and requirements for each individual university, while the latter will be conducting “disciplinary interrogations” and fulfill duties such as: autopsy, witness cross-examination, interrogation of the “persecuted” and composing experts’ reports. The Disciplinary Council will have the power to impose fines and even expel students who have committed disciplinary offences. The Units and Committees for Safety and Protection as well as the Disciplinary Councils, will be composed by University teaching and research staff, transforming them thus, from teachers and researchers to cops and security managers.

    Importantly, Article 18 of the law also dictates for the first time in a democratic European country the establishment of a police security force for universities under the name: “Squads for the Protection of Universities”. The Squads will be carrying a truncheon, handcuffs and anaesthetic/pepper spray gases; they will be patrolling campuses and police stations are to be established within University premises without the consent of university authorities. Further, these squads are to be staffed initially with 1030 police officers (Special Guards), a number that is set to increase depending on the “security needs” of each institution. While for the Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the creation of these Squads and the extensive surveillance of public Universities are “a means of closing the door to violence and opening the way to freedom” and “it is not the police who enter universities, but democracy”; for the majority of the academic community as well as opposition parties, this legislation is an alarming move towards authoritarianism as it opens the doors to the permanent policing and surveillance of universities.

    Abolishing the self-rule of universities and academic freedom through permanent policing, surveillance and disciplining of universities

    To assess those worries we need firstly to set the context. Greek universities (in something that is often uncommon in universities in the Anglo-American part of the world, but very common in Southern Europe, France and Latin America) are very much intertwined with Greek politics and wider social struggles. They constitute an energetic social and political space, which is closely connected to and strengthens wider society’s social struggles against forms of oppression and injustice, rather than simply being sterile spaces of providing information. As such they have historically played a crucial role in Greek politics and constitute “a stronghold of democracy”. Students who occupied the National Technical University of Athens in 1973 against the military junta - an occupation which ended when tanks invaded the gates of the University killing dozens of students and people in the surrounding areas - are considered to be one of the key factors for the overthrown of the junta regime and the transition of Greece to democracy. Since then the academic and student community has been engaging in various forms of protest and solidarity to wider social struggles, while the entrance of police to university premises was banned by law in 1982. The police were only eligible to enter after a University Dean’s request or if a serious crime took place. The “asylum” law as it was called, was abolished in August of 2019, almost as soon as the conservative government of New Democracy came to power.

    Within this context, the fact that the education law (4477/2021) was drafted for the first time in Greek history jointly by both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Citizen’s Protection (i.e. Ministry of Policing), shapes as will become clear, the character and goals of the legislation; which are nothing less than the targeting and criminalization of the socio-political character of the Greek University and academic freedom.

    Therefore the first thing to consider that substantiates the worries of the academic community is that the 1030 police officers (Special Guards) who will form the “Squads for the Protection of Universities” will not have graduated from the 3-year Police Academy degree, which was the principle requirement so far in police hiring procedures. Rather Special Guards are trained through speedy processes and are staffed through rapid hiring procedures of candidates that have declared an interest in becoming police officers, hold simply a high school degree and have completed their military service (compulsory for men in Greece) – preferably from the special forces, reserve military forces, Presidential Guard or from 5-year forces of military volunteers or from bodies of professional soldiers. In the summer of 2019 when the right-wing government of New Democracy was elected, 1,500 Special Guards were recruited to staff riot police and motorbike police (DIAS squads) and now 1030 more will staff University Police. As the Reader of Criminology at Teesside University, George Papanikolaou, argues, we are witnessing a restructuring of the Greek police, whereby male personnel shaped through military type of training and culture will be incorporated in frontline squads to deal with citizens.

    It is no wonder then, given the historical tensions in Greece between student movements and the police, that the academic and student community fear a regression to an authoritarian state, where they will be dealt with as “internal enemies” and handled accordingly. These fears become more and more real as both before and after the bill was passed, the police have engaged in widespread blind violence and authoritarian practices: driving motorbikes at students peacefully protesting against the bill; breaking the teeth and jaw with a fire extinguisher of a peaceful student protestor; torturing in public sight a student that was member of the student group, which as a form of protesting against the educational law had peacefully occupied the administration building of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki; and even kidnapping students from their own houses in the city of Chania, Crete.

    It should also be noted that the lack of training of the Special Guards has also raised serious concerns and objections within police unions, who unilaterally oppose the staffing of the university squads in such a way. Despite the lack however of proper training, these squads will have the authority to patrol, arrest, conduct preliminary interrogations, prevent and address any “deviant” or criminal behaviour within University spaces (Article 18); and are to staff the Control Centers for Signals and Images together with university personnel. The fact that the law (Article 19) clearly states that Special Guards can perform all police duties except for preliminary interrogation, a function that they are set to perform in universities, creates serious questions for the academic and student community. It is also not clarified by the law what is meant by “deviant” behavior or the ways in which these squads are going to “prevent” it (i.e. will they stop and search students and staff and conduct inspections in teaching rooms)? Further, university authorities are to facilitate the new patrolling “Special Forces” in “all possible ways” to implement their duties. Again, it remains unclear by the law what this facilitation will entail and whether Deans and university Senates will have the right to object or even to reject such facilitation.

    This last point leads us to the most important issue about this legislation. The educational law (Article 18 para.5) dictates that these police squads will not answer to university authorities, as required so far by the constitutional autonomous character of universities. Instead, they will directly fall under the mandate of the Ministry of Citizen’s Protection and the Greek police. All these aspects are very distant from the protection of academic freedom that the legislation alleges to support. Academic freedom entails freedom of scientific research and teaching, freedom of circulation of ideas 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 law unconstitutional regarding the principle of university self-rule. The legislation hinders academic freedom and arguably transforms Greek Universities into fortresses of control, surveillance, repression and policing. The fact that the undersecretary of education justified the establishment of police squads and stations within universities on the grounds that it was also a practice during the military junta, attests further to the worries of the academic community regarding academic freedom and university’s self-rule.

    Further, while for universities in the Anglo-American world widespread surveillance is a common and more often than not, unchallenged practice; most probably these universities were not blackmailed (although some recent developments regarding freedom of speech in British Universities might prove otherwise) by their country’s government through legislation (in the Greek case Parts C(d) and D (b) of the law) that their funding would be cut if they did not implement the surveillance and disciplinary prerequisites of the law. A factor that again verifies the abolition of University’s self-rule. Regarding the 24/7 surveillance data of the Centers for Signals and Images it is not clear concerning privacy and data protection, how long the data will be stored, what will be the purpose of processing it and, most importantly, what safety valves are there in order to prevent misuse of the data. So far practices in Greece show that the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is not being upheld. As the expert on Data Protection and Privacy law, Prof. Mitrou, has argued “The Greek law has not respected the GDPR as standard borderline and has (mis)used ‘opening clauses’ and Member State discretion not to enhance but to reduce the level of data protection”.

    Making the situation worse, the fact that University’s teaching and research personnel, who are to staff these Centres along with the police are largely unfamiliar with security planning and surveillance systems, makes more probable for the University police squads to oversee handling of the data. Creating hence serious concerns over who will supervise these squads against violating EU laws regarding data processing and misuse. Similar questions are being posed for the staffing of Units and Committees for Safety and Protection. Moreover, it is not clarified whether the University police squads will also be equipped with devices allowing for live facial recognition and fingerprint identification that Greek police is to receive by summer 2021. An issue that creates even more intense unease regarding the legitimacy and protection of handling of also biometric data of students and staff.

    In essence, the fact that there have been various cases in the Anglo-American world where privacy and data protection safeguards have been breached: administrators of surveillance systems and university administrators monitor emails and social media of staff and students; their on- and sometimes off-campus movements; and have used this monitoring to let go of academic personnel and suppress any type of protest or diffusion of information that while abiding by university’s code of ethics is not approved by university administration; attests to the worries of the Greek academic and student community regarding academic freedom. This is affirmed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)- which has already found that such monitoring practices are open to misuse and hence can turn to not only illiberal but unconstitutional tools. These alarming developments should perhaps make us all reflect on whether we are trading away too much of our liberty in the name of “safety” and whether we want universities to become authoritarian institutions. But how did we come to this?

    Deliberate efforts at defamation of the Greek public university

    During the previous months, the government of New Democracy together with pro-government media engaged in a malicious campaign aiming to defame public universities and represent them to Greek citizens as “sites of lawlessness”, disorder and delinquency. There are definitely problems in Greek universities (mainly caused by the severe underfunding over the past decade), but they are not as depicted by the mass media as centres of crime and havoc. Sofia Vidali, a professor of criminology, eloquently deconstructs such representations in her article “Criminality and Policing in Greek Higher Education: ‘truths’ and ‘lies’”, by showing that instances of delinquency and petty criminality relate to wider socio-economic and spatial characteristics of the area in which each University is placed. Moreover, offences within and in the surrounding areas (both are counted as one in official police statistics) of University premises constitute a very minor subtotal (2,053 offences out of approximately 1,835,792) of the country’s crimes for the periods 2007-2018.

    Arguably, one of the key stereotypes that has been employed by the Minister of Education, Niki Kerameus, and pro-government media propaganda, was that academics are afraid of being hostage to students (particularly students with leftist leanings). They constructed a “moral panic” (see Coehn, S. 1972/2002) around two incidents. The one was the symbolic building in 2006 of the Dean’s office of Democritus University of Thrace by students in protest at the scandalous mismanagement of their alimentation. While the Dean’s office was empty when the building occurred, the stereotype purposefully constructed was that the students had trapped the Dean inside his office, with Mrs. Kerameus stating on 8/02/2021 that “we need to convince young people that it is not normal to build professors within their offices”. The second case was an unfortunate and atypical incident at the Economic University of Athens in October 2020, where young people from the anti-authoritarian political realm forced the Dean to wear a label saying that he supported squatted buildings. While unanimously the academic community had condemned the event and, despite it being an exception rather the rule, the incident has been represented as the common feature of university life. These representations were widely used to justify and legitimize to the wider public the necessity for disciplining, surveillance and establishment of a police force within universities.

    As part of these representations was also an orchestrated defamation of University professors who challenged such depictions. A typical example was that the Greek government has attempted to justify its law through false pretenses of “best practice” stemming from examples in the Western World and particularly Oxford University; saying that there is a police force established for the security of the latter. When a Greek professor at the University of Oxford, Antonios Tzanakopoulos, denied the presence of such police force, Greek pro-government media and Ministers, following largely Trump’s techniques of communication, attempted to distort and slander his statements by saying that he is a liar and a defrauder who spreads fake news. It should be noted that the Oxford UCU has openly taken a stance against the law, while denying the existence of a university police force in its premises. These processes of disinformation, censoring and silencing of any voice that runs counter to the government’s agenda has been a common practice throughout the past year, rendering Greece 4th before last within the EU regarding press freedom and a flawed democracy. It should be emphasised that no police force is established in any European University. Rather, as is the current case in Greece, security personnel and porters (which can be both private and public servants) under a university’s authority are responsible for security issues.

    Importantly, these deliberate practices of defamation of Universities, their academic staff and students come after almost a decade of severe underfunding of the Greek university. During the acute economic crisis (2010-2018), university funding was cut from 75% to even 120% in some Universities, placing Greece in the last positions in Europe in terms of university funding and infrastructures (including the firing of the porters and security personnel). Hence it comes as a great disappointment for university personnel to see that the government is willing to provide 50 million euros (20 million annually for the salaries of the 1030 university police squads and 30 million for the implementation of security systems), when 91 million is the entire budget for universities, who still suffer from underfunding. This money could arguably be used to hire more teaching, research and administrative personnel, porters and the development of infrastructures (i.e. teaching spaces and lab equipment). Arguably the problems that Greek Universities face due to chronic underfunding will not be solved by policing and surveillance.

    It should also be highlighted that the defamatory representations purposefully tend to omit that Greek universities, despite their underfunding and global inequalities in terms of knowledge production, where if you don’t publish in English you literally don’t exist, achieve really good positions in Global University Rankings (ranked among the top 1000 Universities in the world). Crucially these slandering representations come after another legislation (4653/2020) of the Ministry of Education, which equated the degrees of private colleges with those of public universities that significantly “upgraded” the degrees of the former and “downgraded” the degrees of the latter. Private colleges in Greece do not produce research and the knowledge that they provide does not go through the same quality assessments as that of public universities. This “upgrade” of private colleges is combined with another controversial aspect of the law (4477/2021) under discussion, which reduces the numbers of students’ induction to public universities by 20%-30%, channeling arguably the “left-out” students to private colleges. An aspect that not only reduces further the funding of public universities but will also afflict the most vulnerable social strata of Greek society by hindering their educational and social mobility. In other words, the representations of criminality and “lawlessness” and the wider defamation and degrading of the public university, propagated by the mass media and the right-wing government, facilitates the latter in legitimizing the domination of the “law and order” dogma while at the same time fulfilling its neoliberal agenda of privatization of higher education.

    Conclusive remarks: What university do we want?

    As Prof. Costas Douzinas, at Birkbeck University, has argued, what is missing from all contemporary discussions about higher education in Greece and abroad is the core question of what universities do we want? The university at its core aims towards the complete freedom of thinking, critiquing, challenging, researching and circulating of ideas in a constant search for the “truth”. It aims to deepen democracy, including cognitive democracy by providing a pluriversality of knowledges, pedagogies and methodologies to understand the world around us. As such university education has a value in and of itself, which cannot be reduced simply to a tool(vocational) value. Indeed the knowledge provided by universities is about the blossoming of the human soul and mind by constantly shaping an understanding about the human condition, of our individual selves, the world and our societies, which is an “absolute human value” in and of itself (Carr 2009:14). In this way students will later be able to contribute not only to the economy but also to democracy.

    When the University simply becomes a vocational school – a trend that we largely see growing globally and is arguably also the aim of the Greek education law by attempting to downgrade public universities and criminalise socio-political action - then it stops cultivating knowledge and becomes instead simply a depository of information; a commodity that if invested in, will provide the necessary skills for the production of a “disciplined” learner/ consumer/worker to only serve the needs of each nation’s economic growth (Drummond, 2003). As such the University loses its liberatory and democratic essence and its interconnection to social struggles. Professor Boaventura de Sousa Santos powerfully demonstrates what is at stake globally if we continue to follow this trend: “Wherever you are, there are always people struggling against oppression, and you should really try to work with them if you are at the university. Otherwise, the university will be soon a capitalist enterprise like any other, whose market value is defined by rankings, students will be consumers and teachers, workers or, more nicely, collaborators. If we fail our social responsibility, the university as we know it will have no future”. This article is a call against such a dark future that will affect us all globally and locally and may jeopardise the future of democracy and academic freedom as we know it.


    Carr, D. (2009) “Revisiting the Liberal and Vocational Dimensions of University Education”, in British Journal of Educational Studies. 57 (1): pp. 1-17.

    Cohen, Stanley. 2002 [1972]. Folk Devils and Moral Panics. London: Routledge.

    Drummond, J. (2003) “Care of the Self in a Knowledge Economy: Higher Education, Vocation and the Ethics of Michel Foucault”, Educational Philosophy Theory, Vol. 35 (1), pp. 57-69.


    #Grèce #université #surveillance #police

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Traduction :

      Exit la démocratie, bienvenue dans l’autoritarisme : contrôle de l’État, maintien de l’ordre et surveillance dans les universités grecques

      Un projet de loi concernant la « #sécurité » et le #maintien_de_l’ordre dans les universités grecques, entre autres, a été voté le 11 février 2021, par 166 députés de Nouvelle Démocratie, le parti de droite au pouvoir, et de Solution grecque, parti d’extrême droite, malgré l’opposition unanime des partis de gauche (132 députés), de la communauté universitaire et étudiante grecque et des syndicats de police. Cette décision est intervenue dans le contexte de la pandémie de COVID-19, qui a sans doute été une situation extrêmement difficile, douloureuse, insécurisante, traumatisante et éprouvante, qui a affecté la vie de chacun et de chacune, y compris les systèmes économiques, sanitaires et culturels du monde entier. Ce contexte s’accompagne d’un avenir extrêmement incertain, obscur et flou qui accentue l’insécurité au niveau mondial et local. Le système éducatif a été particulièrement touché : les universités sont fermées depuis plus d’un an, l’enseignement ne se tient qu’à distance —avec des effets néfastes sur la santé mentale du personnel enseignant et des étudiant·es — et, en raison des règles de distanciation sociale, il est extrêmement difficile pour la communauté éducative de se réunir, de discuter et d’échanger des points de vue sur des questions urgentes concernant l’avenir de l’enseignement supérieur.
      Quel est le contenu de la loi ?

      Le projet de loi « Admission dans l’enseignement supérieur, protection de la #liberté_académique, amélioration de l’environnement académique et autres dispositions », qui est devenu une loi (4477/2021) le 17 février 2021, exige de tous les établissements d’enseignement supérieur la mise en œuvre de systèmes de sécurité tels que : la surveillance et l’enregistrement d’images et de sons (#vidéosurveillance, #microphones, etc.) dans les espaces ouverts et fermés de l’université ; la contrôle inquisitorial des mouvements et les systèmes d’alarme ; la restriction de l’accès aux espaces universitaires aux seuls personnels et aux étudiants de l’université, voire des contrôles biométriques aux entrées ; des systèmes de #détection_électronique de substances et d’objets illégaux ; et la mise en place de centres de contrôle des signaux et des images dans les locaux universitaires.

      La #loi prévoit également la création d’unités et de comités pour la « sécurité et la protection », ainsi que de #conseils_de_discipline pour les étudiant·es, avec une liste de diverses infractions disciplinaires. Les premiers sont désormais responsables de l’élaboration, de la mise en œuvre, de l’évaluation et de la gestion des programmes et des exigences en matière de sécurité pour chaque université, tandis que les seconds vont mener des « #interrogatoires_disciplinaires » et rempliront des fonctions telles que l’autopsie 1, contre-interrogatoire des témoins, interrogatoire des « persécutés » et rédaction de rapports d’expertise. Le #Conseil_de_discipline aura le pouvoir d’imposer des amendes et même d’expulser les étudiant·es qui ont commis des #infractions_disciplinaires. Les unités et les comités de sécurité et de protection, ainsi que les conseils de discipline, seront composés de membres du personnel d’enseignement et de recherche de l’université, passant ainsi d’enseignants et de chercheurs à des flics et des gestionnaires de sécurité.
      Il est important de noter que l’article 18 de la loi impose également, pour la première fois dans un pays européen démocratique, la création d’une force de #sécurité_policière pour les universités sous le nom de « #Brigades_pour_la_protection_des_universités ». Ces #brigades seront munies d’une #matraque, de #menottes et de gaz anesthésiants et gaz-poivres ; elles doivent patrouiller dans les campus et des postes de police doivent être installés dans les locaux des universités sans nécessiter le consentement des autorités universitaires. En outre, ces brigades doivent être dotées initialement de 1030 policiers (gardes spéciaux), mais leur nombre est appelé à augmenter en fonction des « besoins de sécurité » de chaque institution. Alors que pour le Premier ministre, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, la création de ces brigades et la surveillance étendue des universités publiques sont « un moyen de fermer la porte à la violence et d’ouvrir la voie à la liberté » et que « ce n’est pas la police qui entre dans les universités, mais la démocratie« , pour la majorité de la communauté universitaire ainsi que pour les partis d’opposition, cette législation est un pas alarmant vers l’autoritarisme car elle ouvre les portes au contrôle et à la surveillance permanentes des universités.
      La fin de l’autonomie des universités et des libertés académiques par l’exercice d’une surveillance et une discipline permanentes au sein des universités

      Pour analyser les causes de l’inquiétude, commençons par expliquer dans quel contexte elles prennent place. Les universités grecques — ce qui est souvent rare dans les universités de la partie anglo-américaine du monde, mais très courant en Europe du Sud, en France et en Amérique latine — sont très étroitement liées à la politique grecque et aux luttes sociales plus largement. Elles constituent un espace social et politique vigoureux, étroitement impliqué dans les luttes sociales contre les formes d’oppression et d’injustice ; elles contribuent à les amplifier, plutôt que d’être de simples espaces d’information aseptisés. En tant que telles, elles ont historiquement joué un rôle crucial dans la politique grecque et constituent « un bastion de la démocratie ». Les étudiant∙es qui ont occupé l’Université technique nationale d’Athènes en 1973 contre la junte militaire — occupation qui s’est terminée lorsque des chars ont envahi les portes de l’université, tuant des dizaines d’étudiants et de personnes dans les environs — sont considéré∙es comme l’un des facteurs-clés du renversement du régime de la junte et de la transition de la Grèce vers la démocratie. Depuis lors, la communauté universitaire et étudiante s’est engagée dans diverses formes de protestation et de solidarité avec des luttes sociales plus larges, tandis que l’accès de la police dans les locaux universitaires a été interdit par la loi en 1982. La police n’était autorisée à entrer qu’à la demande du doyen de l’université ou en cas de crime grave. La loi « asile », comme on l’appelait, a été abolie en août 2019, presque aussitôt après l’arrivée au pouvoir du gouvernement conservateur de Nouvelle Démocratie.

      Dans ce contexte, le fait que la loi sur l’éducation (4477/2021) ait été rédigée pour la première fois dans l’histoire de la Grèce conjointement par le ministère de l’Éducation et le ministère de la Protection du citoyen (c’est-à-dire le ministère de la Police), façonne, comme nous allons le voir, le caractère et les objectifs de la législation, soit rien de moins que le ciblage et la criminalisation du caractère sociopolitique de l’université grecque et de ses libertés académiques.

      Ce qui nourrit les inquiétudes de la communauté universitaire, pour commencer, tient à ce que les 1030 officiers de police (gardes spéciaux) qui forment les « brigades de protection des universités » n’auront pas obtenu le diplôme de l’Académie de police à l’issue de trois ans d’études, diplôme qui était jusqu’à présent la principale exigence dans les procédures de recrutement de la police. Les gardes spéciaux auront une formation accélérée et seront recrutés par des procédures d’embauche expéditives parmi les candidats ayant déclaré leur intérêt pour le métier d’officier de police ; ils seront simplement titulaires d’un diplôme d’études secondaires et auront effectué leur service militaire (obligatoire pour les hommes en Grèce) de préférence dans les forces spéciales, les forces militaires de réserve, la garde présidentielle ou les forces de 5 ans des volontaires militaires ou des corps de soldats professionnels. À l’été 2019, lorsque le gouvernement de droite de la Nouvelle Démocratie a été élu, 1 500 gardes spéciaux ont été recrutés pour la police anti-émeute et la police à moto (brigade DIAS) et maintenant 1030 de plus seront employés à la police universitaire. Comme le soutient George Papanikolaou, maître de conférences en criminologie à l’université de Teesside, nous assistons à une restructuration de la police grecque, dans laquelle les agents masculins dotés d’une formation et une culture de type militaire se trouveront incorporés dans des brigades de première ligne pour traiter avec les citoyens.

      Il n’est donc pas étonnant, étant donné les tensions historiques en Grèce entre les mouvements étudiants et la police, que la communauté universitaire et étudiante craigne une régression vers un État autoritaire, où ses membres seront traité·es comme des « ennemis de l’intérieur » et traités en conséquence. Ces craintes deviennent de plus en plus réelles car, avant et après l’adoption de la loi, la police s’est livrée à une violence aveugle généralisée et à des pratiques autoritaires : conduire des motos sur des étudiants qui manifestaient pacifiquement contre la loi ; casser, avec un extincteur, les dents et la mâchoire d’un étudiant manifestant pacifiquement ; torturer en public un étudiant membre d’un groupe d’étudiant∙es qui, pour protester contre la loi sur l’éducation, avait occupé pacifiquement le bâtiment administratif de l’Université Aristote de Thessalonique ; et même enlever des étudiant∙es dans leur propre maison dans la ville de Chania, en Crète2.

      Il convient également de noter que le manque de formation des gardes spéciaux a également soulevé de sérieuses préoccupations et objections au sein des syndicats de police, qui s’opposent unilatéralement à la dotation en personnel des escouades universitaires de cette manière. Malgré l’absence de formation adéquate, ces brigades auront le pouvoir de patrouiller, d’arrêter, de conduire des interrogatoires préliminaires, de prévenir et de traiter tout comportement « déviant » ou criminel dans les espaces universitaires (article 18) ; et elles devront doter les centres de contrôle des signaux et des images d’un personnel universitaire. Le fait que la loi (article 19) stipule clairement que les gardes spéciaux peuvent exercer toutes les fonctions de police, à l’exception des interrogatoires préliminaires, fonction qu’ils sont censés exercer dans les universités, soulève de sérieuses questions pour la communauté universitaire et étudiante. La loi ne précise pas non plus ce que l’on entend par comportement « déviant » ni la manière dont ces brigades vont le « prévenir » — faut-il entendre qu’elles vont arrêter et fouiller les étudiants et le personnel et effectuer des inspections dans les salles de cours ? En outre, les autorités universitaires doivent faciliter les nouvelles patrouilles des « forces spéciales » par « tous les moyens possibles » pour accomplir leurs tâches. Là encore, la loi ne précise pas clairement ce que cette facilitation implique et si les doyens et les sénats des universités auront le droit de s’y opposer ou même de la rejeter.

      Ce dernier point nous amène à la question la plus importante concernant cette législation. La loi sur l’éducation (article 18, paragraphe 5) stipule que ces escadrons de police ne relèvent pas des autorités universitaires, comme l’exigeait jusqu’à présent la dimension constitutionnelle de l’autonomie des universités (franchises universitaires). Au lieu de cela, elles relèvent directement du mandat du ministère de la Protection du citoyen et de la police grecque. Tous ces aspects sont très éloignés de la protection des libertés académiques que la législation prétend assurer. Les libertés académiques impliquent la liberté de la recherche scientifique et de l’enseignement, la liberté de circulation des idées ainsi que le prérequis constitutionnel de la nature totalement autonome des universités. Par conséquent, le fait que ces brigades soient placées sous la gestion et la supervision de la police grecque rend cette loi inconstitutionnelle au regard du principe d’autonomie des universités. La législation porte une entrave manifeste aux libertés académiques et transforme sans doute les universités grecques en forteresses de la police qui les contrôlent, les surveillent et participent à leur répression. Le fait que le sous-secrétaire à l’éducation ait justifié la mise en place de brigades et de postes de police au sein des universités au motif qu’il s’agissait d’une pratique courante sous la junte militaire, renforce les craintes de la communauté universitaire concernant les libertés académiques et l’autonomie des universités.

      Si la surveillance généralisée est une pratique courante et généralement incontestée dans les universités du monde anglo-américain, il y a fort à parier que ces universités n’ont pas fait l’objet d’un chantage — bien que certains développements récents concernant la liberté d’expression dans les universités britanniques puissent laisser penser le contraire — de la part du gouvernement de leur pays par le biais d’une législation — dans le cas de la Grèce, les parties C (d) et D (b) de la loi. La loi précise en effet que leur financement serait réduit si elles n’appliquaient pas les conditions de surveillance et de discipline prévues, ce qui confirme à nouveau l’atteinte à l’autonomie des universités. En ce qui concerne les données de surveillance 24/7 des Centres pour les Signaux et les Images, pour ce qui concerne la protection de la vie privée et des données, beaucoup de doutes subsistent : combien de temps les données seront stockées, quel sera le but de leur traitement et, plus important encore, quelles sont les soupapes de sécurité prévues pour empêcher l’utilisation abusive des données. Jusqu’à présent, les pratiques en Grèce montrent que le règlement général de l’UE sur la protection des données (RGPD) n’est pas respecté. Comme le professeur Mitrou, expert en protection des données et en droit de la vie privée, l’a souligné :

      « La législation grecque n’a pas respecté le RGPD comme limite normale et a (mal) utilisé les « clauses d’ouverture » comme le pouvoir discrétionnaire des États membres, non pas pour améliorer mais pour réduire le niveau de protection des données ».

      Pour ne rien arranger, le fait que le personnel d’enseignement et de recherche de l’université, devant travailler dans ces centres avec la police, ne maîtrise guère les systèmes de planification et de brigades de la sécurité, rend plus vraisemblable que les brigades de police de l’université superviseront le traitement des données. On peut donc se demander qui contrôlera ces brigades pour éviter qu’elles ne violent la législation européenne relative au traitement et à l’utilisation abusive des données. Des questions similaires se posent pour la dotation des unités et des comités de sécurité et de protection en personnel. Il n’existe, qui plus est, aucune précision pour savoir si les brigades de la police universitaire seront également équipées des dispositifs permettant la reconnaissance faciale instantanée et l’identification des empreintes digitales, éléments dont la police grecque doit disposer d’ici l’été 2021. Une question qui crée un malaise encore plus grand concernant la légitimité et la protection du traitement des données biométriques mêmes des étudiants et du personnel.

      En pratique, nous avons connaissance de plusieurs cas dans le monde anglo-américain où les garanties de protection de la vie privée et des données ont été violées : les administrateurs de systèmes de surveillance et les administrateurs d’université surveillent les courriels et les médias sociaux du personnel et des étudiants, leurs mouvements sur le campus et parfois hors du campus, et ont utilisé ces moyens de surveillance pour avoir prise sur le personnel universitaire et étouffer tout type de protestation ou de diffusion d’informations qui, bien que respectant la charte éthique de l’université, ne soient pas approuvées par l’administration de l’université. Cela avive les inquiétudes de la communauté universitaire et étudiante grecque concernant les libertés académiques. C’est ce que confirme la Fondation pour les droits individuels dans l’éducation (FIRE), qui a déjà constaté que de telles pratiques de surveillance sont susceptibles d’être utilisées à mauvais escient et peuvent donc se transformer en outils non seulement contraires aux libertés publiques mais aussi anti-constitutionnels. Ces évolutions alarmantes devraient peut-être nous amener à nous demander si nous n’abandonnons pas une trop grande partie de notre liberté au nom de la « sécurité » et si nous voulons voir les universités devenir des institutions autoritaires. Mais comment en sommes-nous arrivé·es là ?
      Des tentatives délibérées de diffamer l’université publique grecque

      Au cours des mois précédents, le gouvernement de la Nouvelle Démocratie et les médias pro-gouvernementaux se sont engagés dans une campagne malveillante visant à diffamer les universités publiques et à les présenter aux citoyens grecs comme des « sites d’anarchie », de désordre et de délinquance. Les universités grecques connaissent incontestablement des problèmes — principalement dus au grave sous-financement de ces dix dernières années — mais on peut les considérer comme des lieux de criminalité et de désordre. Sofia Vidali, professeur de criminologie, déconstruit avec éloquence ces représentations dans son article intitulé « Criminalité et maintien de l’ordre dans l’enseignement supérieur grec : ‘vérités’ et ‘mensonges’« , en montrant que les cas de délinquance et de petite criminalité sont liés aux caractéristiques socio-économiques et spatiales plus larges de la région dans laquelle se trouve chaque université. En outre, les infractions commises à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur des locaux universitaires — qui sont comptabilisées comme une seule et même zone dans les statistiques officielles de la police— ne représentent qu’une infime partie (2 053 infractions sur environ 1 835 792) des crimes commis dans le pays entre 2007 et 2018.

      Parmi les exemples majeurs utilisés par la ministre de l’Éducation, Niki Kerameus, et par la propagande médiatique pro-gouvernementale, on trouve la peur qu’auraient eu les universitaires de devenir otages de leurs étudiant∙es — en particulier des étudiants de gauche. Les médias ont construit une « panique morale » (voir Coehn, S. 1972/2002) autour de deux incidents. Le premier fut de murer symboliquement, en 2006, le bureau du doyen de l’université Démocrite de Thrace par les étudiants en signe de protestation contre la gestion scandaleuse de la restauration étudiante. Alors que le bureau du doyen était vide au moment de l’installation, les étudiants auraient piégé le doyen dans son bureau : Madame Kerameus déclarant le 8/02/2021 que « nous devons convaincre les jeunes qu’il n’est pas normal de construire des installations dans le bureau des professeurs« . La seconde affaire est un incident malheureux et atypique survenu à l’Université économique d’Athènes en octobre 2020, où des jeunes issus du milieu politique anti-autoritaire ont forcé le doyen à porter un panneau indiquant son soutien à l’occupation des bâtiments. Alors que la communauté universitaire avait unanimement condamné l’événement et, bien qu’il s’agisse d’une exception plutôt que de la règle, l’incident a été représenté comme le quotidien de la vie universitaire. Ces représentations ont été largement utilisées pour justifier et légitimer auprès du grand public la nécessité de discipliner, de surveiller et d’établir une force de police au sein des universités.

      Dans ce contexte médiatique, il y a également eu une diffamation orchestrée des professeurs d’université qui ont contesté les interprétations de la Ministre. Un exemple typique est que le gouvernement grec a tenté de justifier sa loi par de prétextes mensongers de « meilleures pratiques » qui auraient cours dans le monde occidental et en particulier à l’Université d’Oxford ; affirmant qu’il existe une force de police établie pour la sécurité de cette dernière. Lorsqu’un professeur grec de l’Université d’Oxford, Antonios Tzanakopoulos, a nié la présence d’une telle force de police, les médias et ministres pro-gouvernementaux grecs, suivant largement les techniques de communication de Trump, ont tenté de déformer et de calomnier ses déclarations en disant qu’il est un menteur et un falsificateur à l’origine de la diffusion des fake news. Il faut noter que l’UCU d’Oxford a ouvertement pris position contre la loi, tout en niant l’existence d’une police universitaire sur son campus. Ces processus de désinformation, de censure et de réduction au silence de toute intervention qui irait à l’encontre des buts poursuivis par le gouvernement ont eu cours tout au long de l’année dernière, faisant de la Grèce l’avant-dernier pays de l’UE en matière de liberté de la presse et un exemple de démocratie faussée3. De fait, aucune force de police n’est établie dans une université européenne. Au contraire, comme c’est encore le cas actuellement en Grèce, les agent∙es de sécurité et les gardien∙nes — qui peuvent être des fonctionnaires ou des particuliers — placé∙es sous l’autorité de l’université ont la responsabilité des questions de sécurité.

      Ces pratiques délibérées de diffamation des universités, de leur personnel académique et de leurs étudiant∙es surviennent après presque une décennie de grave sous-financement de l’université grecque. Pendant la crise économique aiguë (2010-2018), le financement des universités a été réduit de 75 %, voire de 120 % dans certaines universités4, plaçant la Grèce aux dernières places en Europe en termes de financement et d’infrastructures universitaires — ce qui inclut le licenciement des gardien∙nes et du personnel de sécurité. C’est donc une grande déception pour le personnel universitaire de voir que le gouvernement est prêt à fournir 50 millions d’euros — 20 millions par an pour les salaires des 1030 brigades de police universitaires et 30 millions pour la mise en place de systèmes de sécurité — alors que la totalité du budget [NDLR de sécurité] des universités, qui souffrent toujours de sous-financement, se monte à 91 millions d’euros5. Cet argent pourrait sans doute être utilisé pour embaucher davantage de personnel d’enseignement, de recherche et d’administration, des agents de gardiennage et l’investissement dans les infrastructures — c’est-à-dire des espaces d’enseignement et des équipements de laboratoire. Le maintien de l’ordre et la surveillance ne résoudront aucun des problèmes auxquels les universités grecques se trouvent confrontées en raison de leur sous-financement chronique.

      La diffamation médiatique que subissent les universités grecques fait passer soigneusement sous silence qu’en dépit de leur sous-financement et leur handicap en termes de production de connaissances à l’échelle mondiale — si on ne publie pas en anglais, on n’existe littéralement pas — conservent de très bonnes places dans les classements mondiaux des universités (classées parmi les 1000 premières universités du monde). Il est important de noter que ces représentations calomnieuses font suite à une autre législation (4653/2020) du ministère de l’éducation, qui mettait sur un pied d’égalité les diplômes des collèges privés et ceux des universités publiques, « améliorant » considérablement les diplômes des premiers et « dévalorisant » les diplômes des secondes. En Grèce, les collèges privés ne produisent pas de recherche et les connaissances qu’ils dispensent ne sont pas soumises aux mêmes évaluations de qualité que celles des universités publiques. Cette « revalorisation » des collèges privés est associée à un autre aspect controversé de la loi (4477/2021) en cours de discussion, qui réduit de 20 à 30 % le nombre d’étudiant∙es admis∙es dans les universités publiques, en canalisant les étudiant∙es « exclu∙es » vers les collèges privés. Un aspect qui non seulement réduit davantage le financement des universités publiques, mais qui touche également les couches sociales les plus vulnérables de la société grecque en entravant leur mobilité éducative et sociale. En d’autres termes, les représentations de la criminalité et de l’ »anarchie » et, plus généralement, la diffamation et la dégradation de l’université publique, propagées par les médias et le gouvernement de droite, aident ce dernier à légitimer la domination du dogme de la « loi et de l’ordre » tout en parachevant la réalisation de son programme néolibéral de privatisation de l’enseignement supérieur.
      Remarques conclusives : Quelle université voulons-nous ?

      Comme l’a fait valoir le professeur Costas Douzinas, de Birkbeck University, ce qui fait défaut dans toutes les discussions contemporaines sur l’enseignement supérieur en Grèce et à l’étranger, c’est la question fondamentale de savoir quelles universités nous voulons.

      L’université vise essentiellement à assurer la liberté totale de penser, de critiquer, de contester, de rechercher et de faire circuler les idées dans une recherche constante de la « vérité ». Elle vise à approfondir la démocratie, y compris la démocratie cognitive, en fournissant une pluralité de savoirs, de pédagogies et de méthodologies pour comprendre le monde qui nous entoure. En tant que tel, l’enseignement universitaire a une valeur en soi, qui ne peut être instrumentalisée à une simple finalité professionnelle. En effet, le savoir dispensé par les universités vise à l’épanouissement de l’âme et de l’esprit humains en façonnant constamment une compréhension de la condition humaine, de notre moi individuel, du monde et de nos sociétés, ce qui constitue une « valeur humaine absolue » en soi (Carr 2009:14). De cette façon, les étudiant∙es seront plus tard en mesure de contribuer non seulement à l’économie mais aussi à la démocratie.

      Lorsque l’université devient simplement une institution de formation professionnelle — tendance que nous voyons prospérer dans le monde et qui est sans doute aussi l’objectif de la loi grecque sur l’éducation qui entend dévaloriser les universités publiques et criminaliser l’action sociopolitique — elle cesse alors d’être un lieu de culture de la connaissance, mais une simple banque d’informations ; une marchandise qui, si l’on y investit, fournira les compétences nécessaires à la production d’un apprenant/ consommateur/travailleur « discipliné » pour servir uniquement les besoins de la croissance économique de chaque nation (Drummond, 2003). L’université perd ainsi son essence émancipatrice et démocratique et le lien organique qu’elle noue avec les luttes sociales. Le professeur Boaventura de Sousa Santos démontre avec force ce qui est en jeu au niveau mondial si nous continuons à suivre cette tendance :

      « Où que vous soyez, il y a toujours des gens qui luttent contre l’oppression, et vous devriez vraiment essayer de travailler avec eux si vous êtes à l’université. Sinon, l’université sera bientôt une entreprise capitaliste comme une autre, dont la valeur marchande est définie par les classements, les étudiant∙es seront des consommateur∙trices et les enseignant∙es, des travailleursou des travailleuses ou, pour mieux dire, des collaborateurs ou collaboratrices. Si nous abandonnons notre responsabilité sociale, l’université telle que nous la connaissons n’aura pas d’avenir ».

      Cet article est un appel contre un tel avenir sombre qui nous affectera tous globalement et localement et qui pourrait mettre en péril l’avenir de la démocratie et de la liberté académique telles que nous les connaissons.


      ping @etraces