Boğaziçi University administration cancels class taught by gov’t critic

Political pressure on Turkish universities is continuing, with yet another class taught by a government critic canceled by Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University, the Evrensel daily reported.

Lecturer Sefa Ziya Arslan’s summer course, Calculus 2, was canceled this year by the university administration. Arslan said he had been teaching the class for the past five years and that the administration had made the decision to cancel it without explanation.

“Such decisions are completely against the principles of democracy,” he said. “It also violates the university’s independence from political pressure. In democratic countries, university administrations can’t simply cancel courses without reason and without the knowledge of the faculty and the lecturer.”

Arslan added that the decision to cancel his course affected his students the most. “Students who need to take this course will not be able to,” he said. “The university administration apparently does not consider what’s best for its students. Lecturers who are not considered on the right side of the political spectrum – and on the side of the university administration – are being punished this way, but the students will suffer the most.”

This is not the first time the Boğaziçi administration has cancelled the courses of academics who have openly expressed outrage over government involvement in university governance. 

Last year Boğaziçi University rector Naci İnci, who was appointed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, suspended 16 academics over their participation in protests against presidentially appointed rectors at the school. İnci vetoed the giving of courses by the academics, who had been teaching at the university for years, and ordered them to vacate their offices immediately. The academics had participated in protests and resistance against presidentially appointed rectors at Boğaziçi University.

In a notorious case two years ago, faculty member Can Candan was informed he had been dismissed from the university due to an administrative investigation into one of his tweets. 

According to a recent report by the European University Association (EUA) Turkish universities were the least autonomous among 35 European countries. According to the report the involvement of public authorities in university governance is extensive and stands out as an exception in Europe. 

Academic freedom in Turkey is worryingly declining, while many academics are currently behind bars for being critical of the Turkish government and its president. 

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