Academics from one of Turkey’s most prestigious universities, the İstanbul-based Boğaziçi University, have called on the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to annul a government decree that cancelled elections held at universities to elect rectors.
The AKP government issued two decrees on Saturday, which among other things canceled the intra-university elections that used to be held to elect university rectors. The university rectors will be appointed directly by the president from now on.
Speaking on behalf of the Boğaziçi University academics, Professor Ayşe Buğra said at a demonstration on the university’s campus on Tuesday that the appointment of rectors by the president will kill the institutional autonomy of both private and state-run universities, noting that such a process will subject university administrations to the political will.
Buğra also recalled that although Boğaziçi University elected its new rector on July 12, Professor Gülay Barbarasoğlu, who received 86 percent of the vote, has not yet been officially appointed as rector.
Professor Barbarosoğlu has been serving as the rector of the university since 2012 after she was appointed by former President Abdullah Gül.
“In our country, where the importance of elections is being brought to mind every day, ignorance of such a clear election result and the lack of appointment of the elected rector to her post are unacceptable,” said Buğra, receiving huge applause from the other professors.
She was referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks in which he frequently talks about the importance of elections and the national will.
According to the former system in Turkey, universities held elections within their institutions, but the ultimate decision lay with the president. Erdoğan insisted that the abolition of the election system would be beneficial for the country.
In a previous proposal by the governing party in Parliament, a similar change to what Erdoğan proposed was debated in the legislature but failed due to the objection of opposition parties.
Being a top university especially in the social sciences, a majority of academics and students at Boğaziçi University are known for their critical stance against the AKP and President Erdoğan.
A state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt allows the government to issue such controversial decrees, which bypass Parliament.