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Police detain Boğaziçi University students protesting appointment of another pro-gov’t rector

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İstanbul police detained eight university students on Monday for protesting the appointment of Naci İnci as the new rector of Boğaziçi University in a presidential decree issued on August 20, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

The Boğaziçi Solidarity Group announced the detentions on Twitter, saying the students were reading out a statement protesting the undemocratic appointment of İnci. The students demanded an end to the appointment of rectors by presidential decree, saying it violated the university’s election process.

“We are aware that the rector is not independent from the political rulers. Naci İnci is a pawn of the government and supports their policies of oppression and attempts to seize control of independent institutions,” the students said in their statement.

They added that the presidential system had allowed one man to appoint heads to institutions that are in essence meant to be independent.

Despite the detentions, Boğaziçi University students and academics continued to march between the university’s two campuses yesterday. The detained students were released in the evening.

İnci, a former deputy to Melih Bulu, the previous rector who had been installed by a presidential decree, was appointed despite a 95 percent disapproval rating he received in polls held among the university community to determine possible rector candidates.

A total of 17 candidates emerged with high rates of approval; however, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed İnci, prompting outrage among academics and students.

Zeynep Gambetti, a professor of political science, said the appointment was anti-democratic. “İnci played a key role in sacking academics and silencing the university senate,” she said in a tweet.

According to several academics, during the time İnci was Bulu’s deputy he supported the firing of long-time university staff such as Can Candan. He also prevented popular academics such as Feyzi Erçin from teaching.

Tolga Sütlü, a professor of genetics, said not even one of the 17 favorable candidates had been invited for an interview and that İnci’s appointment was unacceptable.

Members of opposition political parties also protested the decision and said the university was an independent institution and should remain as such.

A prolonged series of protests broke out at the university after Erdoğan appointed 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 early January.

They argued that it was a part of Erdoğan’s broader effort to centralize control over universities and that it undercuts academic freedoms and democracy.

Since early 2021 hundreds demanding the resignation of Bulu and the appointment of a rector from the university staff after the holding of an election have been detained for participating in the youth-driven protests.

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

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