Sunday, March 4, 2012

Discipline and Punish on Campus: Plights of Students [Öğrenci Kollektifleri--from the Students Collective]

As part of our special GIT - North America Students Issue, we have translated an announcement by the Students Collective below, regarding different campus dynamics and "discipline and punish" strategies implemented against the students.

One quick note:

We had previously translated and published a news piece on how Hacettepe University's new President had declined the police request to get the list of the names of students who protested against Uludere massacre [also covered here, on GIT - North America]. At the time, we had mentioned how this suggests potential criminalization intent of student protests against this massacre; and that the previous president of the university had opened a bid for a contract to pepper gas the students, among other things.

And below you will find a different version of what was reported in the news piece that we had translated on Hacettepe University and the new President. This version is written by the students. The beginning of the text below directly addresses those news and what follows is a grim account of what the students across campuses are subjected to.

"Public statements of Murat Tuncer, the new President of Hacettepe University, have raised public interest and were picked up by the main stream media that covered these statements. Of course, this was not done as a transparent reporting of what happened, but rather conveyed in the form of "distorting" and "misrepresenting" [of behind the scenes]--a common strategy, a classic, of the liberal media. Whereas they [the media] represented the new President almost as a hero, there was not a word about how [actually] it was the students on the [Hacettepe University's] Beytepe campus who had struggled to have those decisions taken. And yet, it is the students' struggle that succeeded to democratize their University to a certain extent, and they paid a heavy price for it. (Please read carefully the statement on this by Beytepe Students Collectives: [1]

The subject matter of this text, however, is not the new President of Hacettepe nor the student struggles [for economic, social, and civil rights] on that campus. The subject matter of this text is also not the pepper spray--a tool for violence, used by the hegemonic capitalist class. The goals of this text are to show how pepper sprays [used against students] on university campuses are nothing new, that they have been used at Anadolu University for years, and to briefly offer a perspective of what has been happening at the university in that process. This text, [therefore], will be more a narrative of this process than a commentary.

On 26 October 2009, the elections to designate the new president of Anadolu University were held on campus. According to the ballots, the previous President Fevzi Sürmeli received 334, Hasan Mandal 295, and Davut Aydın had 96 of the electoral votes [across the campus]. Just like at many other universities, rather than the candidate who received the majority of the votes, Abdullah Gül, [President of Turkey], selected his own candidate, Davut Aydın [the candidate who received the least votes] and appointed him as the new President of Anadolu University. As soon as Davut Aydın was appointed, many institutions, including the town hall, have expressed their reactions to his appointment. Students increased their protests against AKP's [politically informed] staffing policies at different institutions. However, as he was beginning to occupy his new "chair" [position]--for which he would later develop a deep love--Davut Aydın declared with full confidence: "In March, I will end politics on this campus." Actually, this kind of statement is a very common trend among every amateur new administrator. But then, when they realize they cannot actually do this, they eventually give up.

In March, hundreds of university students organized a big protest against such bans that are targeting against freedom of expression. The days following this were quite calm, but the first events began with the meetings on the Bologna Process. Special forces attacked the students who protested the Bologna Process and who were not allowed on campus. As the special forces attacks were repelled, investigations were opened against numerous students, who were sanctioned.

Following this, a process now known as the 23-24-25 March events has begun at Anadolu University. The smaller scale of Special Forces Unit (SFU) attacks of 23-24 March have peaked on March 25. [On that day] about 100 security officers used stones, rubber clubs, and chairs to attack students who wanted to hang posters in the cafeteria. As a result of this violent attack, 7 students got injured and one of them had to remain in the hospital for days as that student's jaw was broken. One of the most noteworthy incidents in that offense was the fact that the security forces were [screaming] "Allah Allah" when attacking the students. [2]

Actually, the events that took place between March 19-25 displayed something very clearly: The fact that the meeting about the Bologna Process was held at Anadolu University signaled, on the one hand, that Davut Aydın was going to be one of the key figures in the marketization of universities (in that sense, the presentation he made about the 'marketization' of universities at Tayyip Erdogan's meeting with university rectors in Istanbul is also important), on the other hand, the repression tools deployed on campus signaled how the possible future protests of the students whose rights were extorted were going to be prevented. During the March 25 events it was the faculty members of the School of Communication who stood by the students seeking refuge in the Communication cafeteria. SFU did not hesitate for a moment to show these faculty members who tried to protect their students its police batons (This picture caused a huge wave of indignation in the local press). While the events on March 25 led everyone to question the limitless authority of the SFU, the University President's office, every single time, stood by the SFU. Academicians were exposed to threat calls. A few days later, Davut Aydın would attack the students by holding a press meeting during which he displayed some stones (attributed to the students) the origins of which were unknown. After this press release, sexual assaults and harassment by the Special Forces against female students as well as their provocative behaviors against students have intensified (To watch the event, see:

Media reports on the events along with mass protests forced the administration to step back. On the following days, the students were able to express their opinions freely without having to face any attacks. However, a news report published during those days displayed in all its clarity what type of university Davut Aydin and AKP wanted: the City Security Council had decided to give the SFU the authority to use helmets, shields and pepper sprays. (

While this decision was condemned by the students, the following days were to witness the increase in the number of security officers going around in Robocop uniforms. The administration, which increased repression measures at the university, also installed super-technology surveillance cameras--one of tools for repression in the process of [neoliberalism]-- throughout the campus. Meanwhile, the interrogations took such a ridiculous shape that press releases, or even book exchange stands were considered as a "crime," and students who were not even there when some events took place were subjected to investigation as if they were. The students who had already graduated were also investigated [3].

The administration advocated an unbelievable decision on November 4, 2011. In the cafeteria of the Preparation classes, students putting up anti-AKP and anti-YÖK [4] posters were threatened. When the students replied back by highlighting that the university is a democratic institution and they are only using their right to freedom of expression, the SFU attacked the students. The students locked themselves in the cafeteria and continued to put up posters. The SFU tried to break the windows in vain. With the police raid that followed, the windows, doors, tables and chairs of the cafeteria were broken. The police officers who threw the pieces of broken glass to students, detained more than 40 students. While one of the students got his arm broken by the police, one other got his leg broken and yet another got his shoulder fractured. Many others were injured. The SFU members beat up the hand-cuffed students in police vans, which means that the students were tortured in the campus under the cognizance of the administration. The next day witnessed the biggest mass protest of the last years and 1000 people marched to the University President's office demanding a 'more democratic university'. After a while, 53 students were subjected to judicial inquiry while 45 of them were punished internally. Wanting to make the students pay for the material damage caused by the police raid, the administration sent 400 lira-bills to the families of students.

To watch the videos , (you can see security personnel with helmets and shields in these videos).

The administration had to step back due to mass protests and reactions against these practices. They [the university administration] accepted to meet with the protesters and requested a meeting, and as a result they had to declare that they will recognize freedom of expression and secure a non-intervention policy vis-à-vis student organizations.

There were many similar cases at Anadolu University, but we can’t address them all here. In all these cases no security personnel were subjected to investigation because of their student attacks, and yet, many students were expelled or suspended from the university and many lost their right to education [5]. Due to the severe trauma they experienced, a number of students are still undergoing psychological treatment. Davut Aydın, who received the third place in the ballots of the university board elections was appointed as president of the university by Abdullah Gül, who is known to take AKP’s stance in most of his decisions. So far during his tenure as the President of Anadolu University, Davut Aydın has been very eager to comply with AKP’s neoliberal education policies. The University became a corporate where the market-driven mentality rules. Besides, he [Davut Aydın] institutionalized violence at the university; he didn’t hesitate to use violence against students in any event. He held the students responsible for all misconduct. As mentioned above, the [police] helmet, shield and pepper gas are nothing new to the university; they are the means of violence reflecting AKP’s vision of universities. It should be borne in mind that any success in discouraging the use of these means of violence is not due to a university administration’s own decision, but a success of students' organized democratic struggles against AKP’s neoliberal policies. It should not be forgotten that as was the case in the past, [universities] will always continue to act as a united front against fascist mentality and its violent and anti-democratic means."

To read the text in Turkish, please visit:

To visit the organization of students, the students collectives, please visit:


These footnotes are GIT - North America's addition to the translated text above.

[1] Last week the students met with the new President and conveyed their urgent requests, one of which was asking under-cover police officers conducting a surveillance over student activities to be terminated, and the secret police office on campus to be shut down. Other requests were more geared towards restated social-welfare education demands, such as decreasing tuition, providing cheap food for students, and so on. To read the full report in Turkish, please visit

[2] "Allah Allah" is considered widely as the war cry of Turkish soldiers when attacking an enemy or opponent at war.

[3] This is significant, because those students who graduated were very unlikely to be on campus during those events--which suggests the forces operated on lists of names. In other words, they seem to have already decided who the "culprits" must be, whether they were "there" or not, comes across as irrelevant in their practices.

[4] YÖK is the abbreviation of the Higher Education Council, a legacy institution of the military coup years, founded as a surveillance unit over universities, ran with a bureaucratic mindset and rather than aiming for academic freedom and autonomy, this institution is known for its practices to target against these concepts.

[5] In Turkey, in order to enter the university, a student needs to take centralized placement exams scheduled only once a year. During these exams, for which the students prepare at least one year, students have the right to make a limited list of choices of schools and departments where they would like to be placed, beginning from the most favored to the least. In addition to the students' test scores on that day, the limited number of students that each department accepts and the average score they need to have to enter their department and school of choice, as well as the scores of the students who also listed those departments as their choices that year, there are many variables that play a role in placing a student at a university. All this is to explain how hard it is for students to be placed at a university in Turkey--many of them cannot go to their department of best choice; and also to call attention to what suspending their right to education truly entails as it is not that easy to go through the same process again, and no guarantee to be placed again in a school of choice. The impact of such policies are detrimental for the students.