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Greek Public Universities in Danger

2 Aug
To the international academic community
PUBLIC Greek Universities in Danger
 In the last few years, a wave of ‘reforms’ within the European Union and throughout the world has subjected Higher Education to the logic of the market. Higher Education has increasingly been transformed from a public good and a civil right to a commodity for the wealthy. The self-government of Universities and the autonomy of academic processes are also being eroded. The processes of knowledge production and acquisition, as well as the working conditions of the academic community, are now governed by the principles of the private sector, from which Universities are obliged to seek funds.

Greece is possibly the only European Union country where attempts to implement these ‘reforms’ have so far failed. Important factors in this failure are the intense opposition of Greek society as well as the Greek Constitution, according to which Higher Education is provided exclusively by public, fully self-governed and state-funded institutions.
According to the existing institutional framework for the functioning of Universities, itself the result of academic and student struggles before and after the military dictatorship (1967-1974), universities govern themselves through bodies elected by the academic community. Although this institutional framework has contributed enormously to the development of Higher Education in Greece, insufficient funding and suffocating state control, as well as certain unlawful and unprofessional practices by the academic community, have rendered Higher Education reform necessary.
The current government has now hastily attempted a radical reform of Higher Education. On the pretext of the improvement of the ‘quality of education’ and its harmonization with ‘international academic standards’, the government is promoting the principles of ‘reciprocity’ in Higher Education. At the same time, it is drastically decreasing public funding for education (up to 50% decrease) which is already amongst the lowest in the European Union. New appointments of teaching staff will follow a ratio 1:10 to the retirement of existing staff members.  This will have devastating results in the academic teaching process as well as in the progress of scientific knowledge.
The government proposals seek to bypass the constitutional obligations of the state towards public Universities and abolish their academic character.

  • The self-government of Universities will be circumvented, with the current elected governing bodies replaced by appointed ‘Councils’ who will not be  accountable to the academic community.
  • The future of Universities located on the periphery, as well as of University departments dedicated to ‘non-commercial’ scientific fields, looks gloomy.
  • Academic staff will no longer be regarded as public functionaries. The existing national payscale is to be abolished and replaced by individualized, ‘productivity’ related payscales, while insecure employment is to become the norm for lower rank employees.
  • Higher Education will be transformed into ‘training’ and, along with research, gradually submitted to market forces.

The government proposals have been rejected by the Greek academic community. The Council of Vice-Chancellors and the Senates of almost all Universities have publicly called the government to withdraw the proposals and have suggested alternative proposals which can more effectively deal with the problems of Greek Universities. Despite this, the government proceeds with promoting its proposals, in confrontation with the entire academic community.
We appeal to our colleagues from the international academic community, who have experienced the consequences of similar reforms, to support us in our struggle to defend education as a public good. We fight, together with our British, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and other colleagues, for the respect of the academic tradition of the European universitas in current conditions.

We ask you to send electronically the appeal below, signed with your name and indicating your academic status and institutional affiliation, to the Initiative of Greek Academics (europeanuniversitas1@gmail.com) or  sign online at http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?GRUNIV

The support of the international academic community will prove invaluable for the upcoming developments not only in Greek Universities but in respect to public European Higher Education as a whole.

Initiative of Greek academics

London Met Occupies!

5 May

On May 4th, 2011 with 70% cuts London Met students occupied the Graduate centre on Holloway road. They are calling for national demonstration to support them.

Statement

A certain area of the Tower Building in Holloway Road is being currently occupied by students in protest against Vice- Chancellor Malcolm Gillies’ decision to axe 70% of courses- including Performing Arts, Philosophy and History.

Gillies’ decision came as a shock a couple of weeks ago. None of the university teaching staff was consulted about the cuts. A majority of the excellent, dedicated tutors are under imminent threat of losing their jobs.

Students already enrolled on the courses face an uncertain future. There have been rumours about transfers to other universities with which WE DO NOT AGREE.

This statement is our call for help to save our university, our future and our dreams: to keep London Metropolitan University open to everyone, regardless of their social class, wealth and chosen subject of study. The purpose of this occupation is to present the Vice-Chancellor with our demands

Demands

  1. Meeting with Vice- Chancellor
  2. Transparent process and direct communication
  3. University management goes back to HEFCE to renegotiate repayment terms
  4. Vice- Chancellor to accept proposals put forward by staff in HALE
  5. University retracts decision of cuts of ALL courses
  6. Students on existing courses which are being deleted, WILL NOT BE TRANSFERRED.
  7. Free access IN and OUT of the Occupation
  8. No student is victimized following action taken to occupy the space.

Website: http://www.wearelondonmet.wordpress.com

Book Bloc in Netherlands – March 21 – 26th: Week of Action

5 Apr

A reflection on ‘Onderwijs is een recht’ (Education is a right) demonstration on the 25th of March, The Hague, Netherlands. Halfway the largest student demonstration since decades in the Netherlands on 21st of January in The Hague, with its spectacular high stage, I climbed up its scaffolds to film from as high as possible. And exactly in this clumsy position while hanging next to the stage, which was only offered to politicians and a tasteless, popular DJ, who made the students jump to cheesy music in a park, I, and I guess many of us, realized that the story of the hijacked student movement by opposition political parties isn’t a conspiracy. It was a fact unfolding itself in front of our eyes staring at the brutally colored, branded and mass produced posters and flyers which, beside political propaganda, were a clear abuse of the fragile position of students towards the government and opposition parties. While wiping off our wet and tingling eyes we asked outselves what needs to be done.
Since the occupations at a few universities a month or two after the demonstration, a network of enthusiastic students based on self-organization during demonstrations and direct actions by and for students began to emerge. Our main focus was set on organizing another demonstration on the 25th of March. ‘Education is a Right’ was communicated to the national student union, Social Party Youth (Rood) and others whom we thought of as our allies, which unfortunately very soon was proved to be otherwise. They stated that they don’t recognize us and don’t want to be associated with our aims and the network, while they spread rumours, warning others of an anarchist group behind the 25th of March demonstration.

15,000 flyers were distributed in most of the universities in the Netherlands, emails flooded, facebook and twitter updates burning with a hope to mobilize as many students as possible. Critical questions like how to express our frustration, how to perform our action differently than on 21st January, guaranteed to make the demonstration a unique happening. However, one might say that our action was a failure because no more than 200 students were present at the demonstration. Whereupon the depressive grey weekend after the demonstration made me think of why we shouldn’t or should follow the youtube mentality?

Well yes, the youtube mentality is the mentality of stacking up numbers! Those fucking numbers seem to be our cultural value and measure of success recently and precisely that is one of the greatest problems of the demonstration as a format! I think with the exact same amount of committed protesters we had, the great amount of fantastic noises by experimental conservatory musicians, anthology of frustrations, chants and above all our photogenic superiority, we can really do something of incredible quality if we once and for all get rid of this youtube mentality and think about formats other than old fashioned demonstration and over-criticizing ourselves by emails on the next days!

Now I want to think about a master minded direct action before the parliament debate on April 12th! Who is in?

By Ehsancritique.com– 31 March 2011 Amsterdam

Queens College Walks Out to Defend Public Education

1 Apr

To whom it may concern:

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life;

education is life itself.” – John Dewey

Education is a right, not a privilege. It provides more opportunities for individuals to realize their full capacity to grow as human beings. Privatizing education secludes communities from that right. In our present society, there is a strong emphasis placed on education for advancement. How does privatizing public education offer the opportunity of prosperity for people, regardless of class? How does privatizing public education help the disenfranchised? It doesn’t. In fact, it seeks to exclude these communities by turning our colleges into franchises.

The CUNY tradition, at its beginning, was based on the right to accessible and free education for its students. At the time the student body homogeneously consisted of Caucasian men. Despite strides made in civil rights, prior to 1969, the CUNY system was exclusionary to people of color, the communities that mainly make up this city. It was the result of militant occupations, initiated by students in CUNY that forced the administration to open admissions. Coincidentally, soon after CUNY opened admissions, students for the first time received a tuition bill. Since 1976, tuition has incrementally expanded. Despite spikes in unemployment, students were expected to scrounge for
money to pay tuition. Our generation is no exception to the burdens of this hassle, so we seek to carry on the tradition of past generations’ struggles.

On March 31st, 2011, Queens College students will be taking part in the Nationwide Walkout and Strike to Defend Public Education. Consider what we confront. We have faced three tuition hikes in the past five years, two being within the past two years. There are less full-time professors and more adjuncts. There are more students per class creating more workload for professors. This just breaches the surface. The CUNY Chancellor received a hefty pay increase which nearly doubled his base annual salary to $600,000. Meanwhile, we have been told that CUNY is in need of money and resources. With tuition rising, college services dwindling and the quality of our education suffering, the chancellor’s pay is rising. President James Muyskens is in full support of the tuition hike. The hikes were not openly shared with the students until the last minute, so it is only fair that we get mad. This is our time to  peak and if we are not heard at first, we will speak regardless. We are striving not simply as individuals, but as a college.

As students we have united to work together while the administration and the Board of Trustees works against us. We walkout to remove ourselves from the institution that is attempting to subordinate us. We walkout for the lack of transparency that the CUNY institution has become. We walkout for the lack of consideration for our adjuncts, who work like mules and get paid poverty line wages. We walkout because we refuse to accept the brunt of economic recessions as an excuse for tuition hikes. We walkout for those undocumented persons who have been refused an education. We walkout in anger of the pay raises these “working-class millionaires” receive, while they vote for the demise of working class students. We walkout for the lack of Black and Latino students on campus, which is evident in the low enrollment of Area Studies in, Queens, the most diversified of the five boroughs. We walkout in solidarity with the students suing for the unlawful spikes in tuition. We walkout in solidarity with high school students facing their respective struggles in the face of school closures. We walkout to failed promises Obama didn’t keep to the youth that put him in office. We are tired. We are angry. We are frustrated. This is why we walkout. This is why we strike.

We have had enough,
Queens College Students

Queens College Walks Out to Defend Public Education
Thursday, March 31, 2011

We are the students united through struggle, for we have a world to win and nothing to lose but the complicity of our
silence. In standing together and marching, we (Queens College students) demand:

1. Free tuition! For education is our right. Until this is accomplished, roll back all the hikes.

2. The increase of funding for student services that are essential for student life on campus, both academically and socially (including, but not limited to academic resources, technology, student support, student activities, etc).

3. Student power and representation in decision making bodies like The Personnel and Budget Committee, which oversees faculty promotions, for we must have a say in who teaches us and in what they teach us.

4. Absolute transparency and accountability of the administration. In addition, we demand the representation of the student body in the decision making process, including access to Board of Trustees meetings and minutes, ensuring that the administration represents the interests of the students. We call for regular meetings with the administration and the student government, to establish a conduit through which we can voice our concerns and demands.

5. That services utilized by Queens College be socially conscious, ethical and safe for the environment, i.e. less contracts with multi-million dollar corporations (Starbucks, Coca Cola), replacement of corporate catering contracts (Chartwells, whose parent company Compass Group took in a profit of around $950 million in 2009), thus opening spaces for local businesses, student and community employment, and healthier, more affordable options. Not only do these contractors grossly overcharge for sub-par products, but they mistreat their workers, with whom we stand in solidarity.

6. That Queens College subsidize all textbooks and supplies. We propose a school/student run, not for profit bookstore replacing eFollett, which rakes in around $2 billion annually from the pockets of students nationwide.

7. An end to CUNY’s exclusionary and discriminatory practices.

Our demands include, but are not limited to:
· the removal of programs that support elitism and student exceptionalism (Macaulay Honors, whose students are given access to a disproportionate amount of resources, and are blatantly held at a higher regard, antagonizing students).
· the access to all available resources and services for undocumented students.
· open admissions to incorporate the people of the city for whom The City University of NY was founded. The
absence of which perpetuates the vicious and cyclical under-education of the working class.
· the demilitarization of our learning institutions, disallowing armed services from entering, what should be, our
sanctuary of education. There are more booths allotted to armed services (US Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, etc) at
our career fairs, attended by the vastly urban, working class student body, than there are other career options.
· an end to racist, sexist, homophobic and other discriminatory practices For instance, the refusal to address the issue
of blood drives, which blatantly discriminate against those of us in the LGBT community.
· the increase in funding and resources for area studies and to further develop non-existing area studies (like gender/masculinity studies, LGBT studies, etc.).
· we demand a diverse academic staff (ethnicity and gender) to ensure appropriate professors for area/regional studies.

8. Justice for workers. Issues for adjuncts continue to arise, but their needs are constantly overlooked. Provide them with better health benefits, equitable compensation and access to tenure track. We demand an end to the expendability of the adjuncts and the other workers, and call for implementation of fair contracts, for we, the students, stand arm in arm with the workers. Same enemy, same fight, workers and students all unite!

Students and Community Supporters Occupy Social Sciences Tower at University of Minnesota

29 Mar

Students and Community Supporters Occupy Social Sciences Tower at University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus – West Bank
http://umnsolidarity.wordpress.com/

Occupying in Solidarity with Wisconsin Students and Workers and Against University Budget Cuts

Minneapolis – On Monday, March 28th, a group of students and community members have occupied the first floor of the Social Sciences tower on the West Bank of the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota. Following a rally in front of Coffman Memorial Union, participants marched across the East Bank of campus and crossed the Mississippi River onto the West Bank. Students and supporters entered into the first floor of the Social Sciences tower and held an assembly to discuss possible courses of action. Using a democratic process of consensus, protesters decided to hold the space in an open and soft occupation.

Since the occupation is non-violent and open, as of press time the University has not removed the occupiers. However, the University buildings close to the public at 11 pm each night. “We have a solid group of people here who are committed to the occupation, and we are using social media to bring more students and supportive community members to the space,” said undergraduate student Andrew, who has chosen not to give his last name. “We are planning specific events for the space in order to benefit the entire community, which we will be posting on our blog, umnsolidarity.wordpress.com,” added Sara, a U of M student who was forced to take a semester off of school for lack of finances.

Students and community supporters are outraged over soaring tuition, budget cuts, skyrocketing administrative salaries, mounting student debt, attacks on cultural diversity groups on campus, and blatant disregard for workers’ rights across the nation. In light of recent student and worker uprisings around the world, students in the Twin Cities are no longer willing to bear the burdens of the economic crisis while the rich only get richer. Inspired by the actions of students at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Madison, and other campuses around the state, U of M students are standing up against injustices in their own state and their own university.

Your money or your life: people before profit!

24 Mar

Find the feature with photos, video and materials
http://www.cantiere.org/art-03205/people-before-profits-azione-alla-borsa-di-milano.html

Euphoria to the italian “Wall Street”, the so-called “Borsa” of Milan located in “Piazza Affari=business square” : Europe rises up,  particularly involving banks & financial centres. The italian “Borsa” reacts in order to stop an action of important cultural value, fearing an attack that can cause the instability of the markets, in particular a revolt of all debtors.

Oh yeah! because the neo-liberism thru monetarism and financial istitutions enslaves millions of people thru the debt that provide to the banks huge profits. This is the theme of the lecture setted up today at the “Borsa”of Milan by the “generation debt”. An action realized in order to inaugurate a 3 days of actions involving all Europe. From London to Milan, the “Knowledge Liberation Front” aims to point the finger against the global financial system banks and other financial istitutions who are the real owners of our governments as our life.
This system uses our money in oprder to enrich itself, and leave us the debts : this system produced the crisis and than used our money, the money of the citizens in order to save the banks, leaving us with more poverty, more debts, more public debt and none welfare, culture neither public education & forcing everyone to indebt himself in a continuous growing chain of loans, mortgages, interest rates, taxes, and fines.

However the big powers, the magicians of “Piazza Affari=business square” disliked the lesson (& the action) & promptly ordered a police operation. Police, quickly arrived in order to “protect” the core of the financial economy. First police removed the press, than obscured the cameras & the end badly operated against teachers and students. Meanwhile, the officials stated that the Stock Exchange is a private place. Too bad that all their huge profits are guaranteed by the sum of our meager savings and debts which we contract, and their wealth is produced by our intelligence, our work, our co-operation.

If youngs occupy the banks all over Europe is because we want to take back our money, and the wealth we produce. In Italy more than anywhere the economic power coincides with the political and the mafia. For this reason we invite all to take to the streets tomorrow, as every day, and to demand the exile of the rais and the confiscation of all his assets to return them to culture, welfare and public education.

Take the Future – first act

24 Mar

Today, the 24th of March, also Bologna has launched the Knowledge Liberation front days of common and transnational actions against the banks and the financialization of our lives. Many students and precarious workers did practices of direct actions to reappropriate the spaces of the crisis and the social richness. We have occupied the Unicredit Bank, in the center of the city, to unmask our precarious conditions: we are stripped by the crisis and the criminal management of the European governance. Shouting “We don’t want to stay with only the pants”, we entered in the bank and we undressed, reappropriating this space as a housing place. After the action we took the streets, communicating to the city the meaning of what we struggling for.

This is only the beginning of the three common days of actions: Saturday afternoon, at 5pm, we have launched the “Take the future parade” around the streets of Bologna.

RECLAIM MONEY, SHARE KNOWLEDGE, TAKE FREEDOM!

http://bologna.repubblica.it/cronaca/2011/03/24/foto/bologna_in_banca_si_resta_in_mutande-14048353/1/?ref=HRESS-2