Academics face probe for protests against gov’t-appointed rectors

The rector of the İstanbul-based Boğaziçi University, who was appointed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has launched a disciplinary investigation into academics who participate in protests against presidentially appointed rectors at the school, Turkish Minute reported.

Rektor Naci İnci claimed that the protests were “contrary to the law” and of a nature that “disrupt the functioning of the university,” referring to written statements issued by his office on July 1 and July 7 as a basis for his allegations. The statements said the vigils were held in violation of Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations.

The office further claimed that the 15-minute silent protests caused prospective students in the university selection process to “hesitate” and had announced that legal, criminal and administrative proceedings would be initiated against the faculty members who continued the protests.

Academics drafted a public statement in response to the rector on July 10 and announced their intention to continue their daily protests.

The academics emphasized that so far, there had been no disruption of any activities within the campus due to the protests and that the protests had not caused any negative impacts on students, other campus residents or visitors that would require security intervention.

“As Boğaziçi University academics, we would like to reiterate that our right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by our constitution and we emphasize that our vigil is not subject to any notification, permission or the administration’s time/place restrictions. … The criminalization of our peaceful vigil, which we have conducted entirely within legal boundaries … is unacceptable,” they said.

A prolonged series of protests took place at Boğaziçi University after Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Sarıyer district branch and former deputy chairman of the AKP’s İstanbul provincial chapter, as rector in January 2021.

Shortly after Bulu’s dismissal by a presidential decree in July 2021, the university community demanded that a democratic election be held at the university to elect a new rector, adding that they would not accept the appointment of a rector to replace Bulu, either from within or without the university, since they oppose the appointment of rectors by Erdoğan.

However, Erdoğan on Aug. 20 appointed İnci, a former deputy to Bulu, as the new rector, despite a 95 percent disapproval rating he received in polls held among the university community to determine possible rector candidates, again prompting outrage among academics and students.

University staff members have been standing with their backs turned to the rectorate building every day in protest of the presidentially appointed rectors.

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