“Free and Secure Univeritie” in Turkey
Derya Ozkul – Alumna of Bogazici University
Note: To understand the situation of Turkish universities in crisis, one would need to write about the overarching neoliberal policies and all the attempts at policing the resistance against them. Yet this would require a more comprehensive investigation. Here I will have to limit myself to only one of the latest examples: the decision for the so-called ‘Free and Secure University’ management by the Higher Education Council in Turkey.
I am an alumna of Bogazici University, a public university in Turkey, a country that survived several military coups whose repercussions still manifest themselves in the everyday life of the citizens. The current constitution regulating many aspects of daily life is the legacy from the latest coup in 1980. According to the constitution, YÖK (The Higher Education Council) is responsible for the planning and supervision of Turkish universities.
The task of planning and supervision of universities do not include only approving the courses and the faculties, but also intervening in campuses physically. The recent protests at Turkish universities were thus met with great anxiety by the Council. These protests have been mainly against the absence of education for minorities and the increased fees even in so-called free public universities. Following several student protests around the country, YÖK met to discuss what sort of a new management to initiate.
To this purpose, the so-called ‘Free and Secure University’ decisions were taken in a closed meeting and were sent out to all universities at the beginning of the last academic semester through the means of Security General Directorate. The president of YÖK states that these will help universities to produce knowledge in freedom and to control the security situation on their campuses. (Please note that in their words these two concepts of freedom and security are used almost as synonymous.) Only to make sure that knowledge is produced in a free environment, the president declares that their aim is to train private security guards working specifically on university campuses. As such, the ‘Free and Secure University’ decisions are taken to prevent any sorts of protest and ‘noxious’ views and to react them as immediately as possible. The decisions include, but are not limited to, the following acts:
- For campus security purposes, universities should control their entry-exit points, develop illumination systems, use cameras and if possible check fingerprints.
- To react as immediately as possible, universities should demand in advance the permission to employ policemen and/or private security guards.
- Universities should designate a specific area for policemen on campus.
- If private security guards are not adequate, formal police forces should also be able to intervene on campuses.
- For each academic semester, all university staff should have at least two meetings regarding the security situation among students.
- Students participating in protests should be followed and offered counseling services. Toward that end, counseling services should be improved and made available on campuses (which is a sharp demonstration of one of the ways to ‘cure’ the students).
Apart from the physical security, YÖK ‘helps’ to produce knowledge in a free environment in financial terms as well. The higher education system in Turkey consists of public and private universities. Whereas the public ones were considered to offer better education, during the last decade, with the increased financial support of industrial groups, private ones started to attract the good professors from the public ones, signaling that the balance will change in the coming decades. In fact, one of the reasons for permitting private universities was that the Turkish state claimed itself to be financially inadequate in meeting the educational needs. Now in 2010, the YÖK initiates the provision of:
- a larger source of credits to students who are unable to pay the fees (as such forcing graduates to work only in certain sectors where they can earn enough money to pay them back).
- ‘state-funded scholarships’ to students who would like to study in private universities (which makes one wonder where these sources then come from, if the state is financially deficient).
The right to education still exists in the Constitution and these decisions are all claimed ‘to help’ students to have a ‘free and secure education’. Yet to me they seem to be mere evidence that the state is trying to help to train young indentured workers.