I did a talk on the Greek Academic Asylum Law as part of the Bartlett picket line teach-outs on 10 March 2020. The teach-outs have been taking place during the most recent national UCU “four fights” strike, which concerns workloads, casualisation, pensions and pay inequalities.
The Academic Asylum Law in Greece was introduced in 1982 to prevent police from entering university grounds, and protect universities as “autonomous entities”. It is unique to any country in the world and has been at the forefront of political debate in Greece for more than 45 years, since the fall of the far-right regime of the military junta.
The building in the photos below is the Athens Polytechnic (ie the architecture school), which I photographed in April 2019. In November 1973, this building was the site of a three-day student occupation and resistance against the junta, during which students and workers locked themselves within the university grounds, asking for democratic elections and the fall of the dictatorship. To suppress the occupation, the police and the army broke through the university gates on 17 November 1973 with tanks and firearms, arresting and injuring hundreds of students, and killing 23. This event remains at the core of academic asylum in Greece, preventing the police from entering university grounds and raising debates about the meaning of academic freedom and autonomy, crime and resistance.
A brief and useful history of the legislation can be found here: http://www.loc.gov/law/help/university-asylum/greece.php. The law has most recently been repealed in August 2019, although it has undergone a series of repeals and reinstatements since it was first introduced.
For a more comprehensive approach to the political nuances and the symbolic importance of Greek Academic Asylum, I recommend Kyriakos Babasidis’ 2003 law PhD available on open access from the University of Hull, “The political and cultural dynamics of University asylum law in Greece”: https://hydra.hull.ac.uk/resources/hull:8399.
Thank you to the powerhouse that is Jane Rendell and to the MA students who created a thoughtful and relevant discussion about universities and resistance. The comparisons between the Athens Polytechnic, the Bartlett and other universities enabled fresh perspectives on the ever-troubling subject of the role and importance of higher education.