Prominent group demands ‘autonomous and free’ Boğaziçi University

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A group of 14 journalists, writers and academics has started a signature campaign on the change.org website demanding that Boğaziçi University, which has been the scene of ongoing protests since the appointment of a government loyalist as rector in January, be “autonomous and free,” local media reported on Tuesday.

Among the originators of Tuesday’s petition, which comes six months into the protests at Boğaziçi and has collected more than 4,000 signatures so far, are journalists Zeynep Oral, Yazgülü Aldoğan and Gila Benmayor, and academics Binnaz Toprak and Oya Başak.

“We cannot remain silent about what is happening at Boğaziçi University, one of the country’s most valuable educational institutions. … In order for universities to preserve the values they should have, we must defend autonomous and free institutions and science and merit-based education to the end,” group said, asking for support for the campaign.

The recipients of the petition are President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Education Minister Ziya Selçuk and the country’s Higher Education Board (YÖK).

The appointment of Melih Bulu, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Sarıyer district branch in İstanbul, as rector by Erdoğan has since early 2021 sparked protests among students and alumni as well as opposition politicians and activists.

While critics said Bulu wasn’t qualified for the job and that a state-appointed rector harmed the independence of the university, many argued that the move was part of Erdoğan’s broader effort to centralize control over universities.

Turkish media recently reported, citing tweets by academic Can Candan, that students and academics were barred from entering the Boğaziçi University campus by Bulu on Saturday, with police officers and the university’s private security guards closing off the campus entrances with barricades.

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