Reply to the Minister’s e-mail message
We were dismayed to witness the suspicious way in which the Minister of Education chose to respond to the petition “Defending Greek Academia”, which has been endorsed by a remarkable part of the international academic community and has been by now recognized as an international action of safeguarding and further enhancing the very idea of the democratic, self-administered and unconditional university which should be a space of “unconditional” critique and research in Kantian terms.
In her letter, Ms. Diamantopoulou reduces the signatories of the petition – international academics of renowned commitment to academic freedom and critical thinking – to mere pawns who were naively deceived and misled by their Greek colleagues. It also figures Greek academics as mere deceivers who are afraid of change and are guided by their own self-interests. This is a misrepresentation of both international and Greek academics, one which is akin to the typical rhetoric of this Minister and Government: all disagreement is pathologized as regressive fear for change, all critique is reduced and displaced to ulterior motifs and micropolitical self-interests.
This is not the occasion to reiterate that the object of the critique articulated by the academic community is not “change” as such, but rather the specific direction of this law. This is not the time to repudiate, once again, the semantic hijacking according to which the managerial subjugation of the university is miscalled “reform”. And this is not the occasion to unravel why this law undermines the free university and its fundamental commitment to democratic thinking, teaching and research.
Instead, we wish at this point to pose this question: How can the Minister seriously presume that the international intellectuals who have endorsed the petition and its cause have done so without a comprehensive knowledge of the facts? The facts, in this context, refer to the consequences of similar policies applied in other educational systems throughout the world. The Minister’s letter manifests a demagogic deployment of the “international”, its strategic uses and abuses. While the Minister constantly invokes “international experience” to legitimize her new legislation, when the “international experience” actually speaks through the signatures of prominent international academics, she rejects it. If the reform bill introduces international principles and standards, then these are already common knowledge at a global level, their lived effects being already exposed to critical thinking. Contesting the possibility of such a critique, on the grounds of linguistic specificity, either signals that the principles and standards introduced by this bill are not truly the ones in place in the signatories’ academic institutions, or that the idea of critical academic thinking is beyond the caliber of the Minister’s logic, hovering as a threat to her political imagination.
Finally, the Minister requests that her letter be posted in the blog of “Defending Greek Academia”. It is ironic, if not upsetting, that the Minister of monologue, the Minister who chose to disregard the academic community and its propositions, now feels free to make such a request. We cannot and shall not follow her in this monologic manner, and we are posting her letter. We request, however, that the petition with its signatures, as well as and our response to her letter, be posted in the website of the Ministry of Education.
The Initiative of Greek Academics