What do universities nurture?
By Tayfun Atay
The universities among us have never been the “fifth power”. By this I mean, after the legislature, executive, judiciary and media, an educational, scientific and conceptual “locus” positioned equally, symmetrically and commensurately to the above-mentioned four powers, said to be the sine qua non for a country’s healthy functioning.
You will of course immediately rebuke me, asking which of these has ever managed to be an independent “power” in this country!
Forget the rest! OK, universities have never managed to be the “fifth power,” but in no period until now have they found themselves in the position of being a direct “fifth column” to today’s extent, either.
In the process of steepening penal sanctions against the Academics for Peace signatories, the ruling body and the President heading it spare almost no means as they continue to do their utmost to bring about the self-dissolution of universities.
The latest events at Bosphorus University: A stand set up by a group of students to distribute Turkish delight to commemorate soldiers who lost their lives in the Afrin operation underwent attack by another group of students.
We cannot know what transpired and how, or which dynamics and provocations triggered it, but the police force intervened. University management also issued a statement condemning the incident. It made known that it considered this to be an attack tantamount to restricting freedom of expression and announced that it had also commenced the necessary investigative and disciplinary procedures against those responsible.
This did not suffice! The President was sure to get involved, and did so!
Even if the university of decades’ standing that courts fame and respect in the world, making it “prestigious”, “popular” and “a brand”, announced that it would do what was called for in view of the seriousness of the situation, no, this did not suffice. The President was sure to get involved, and did so.
For, just like the party, like the judiciary, like the media and like the state, the universities are also singular and are the President’s!
“Those youngsters are communists, those youngsters are traitors, those youngsters are terrorists!”
Communists, plus traitors, plus terrorists! Read it this way if you like.
If you like, read it to mean communists equal traitors equal terrorists!
The conclusion to be drawn from both readings is that it is now impossible at this country’s universities to either mention science, thought, philosophy, sociology, political science or international relations, or speak with reference to certain thinkers and ideologies, without being labelled a terrorism supporter and traitor.
Universities most certainly do not nurture terrorists. Learning exists to prevent terror.
But, universities most certainly do not nurture a youth that blindly follows the ruling body, either. This would amount to self-denial on the part of universities.
The “service to the nation and people” of young university-educated people manifests itself in the capacity to discuss, criticise and question the ruling body’s deeds, not in fawning before the ruling body.
The greatest harm from impelling universities to become the political ruling body’s “fifth column” will also be visited on that ruling body itself.
In line with the openly-proclaimed instruction, the arrests started yesterday in operations staged on student hostels and homes.
The President additionally said, “We will deprive them of the right to study, too.”
This is precisely how you bring grist to the mill of terrorism!
It is like the thoughts inspired by something that happened to me years ago at the university I was working at.
A day did not pass without a fight between student groups with opposing views. I had students from both groups.
The most tragic side to all this was the way these students were bosom buddies in the year they first started. They came from all four quarters of Anatolia; some of them, indeed, from the same neck of the woods. In the first year, we would discuss everything so cordially in class. The ideas were different and opposing, but we could discuss them and everyone left the class in close embrace.
Then, from the second term onward, I would look and see separate places being taken in the class, an intervening distance forming and a mutual hardening of views. And they started being at one another’s throats outside class.
In the interests of we “scholars” finding a solution, we came together as a group of faculty members facilitated by the deanship. Of course, we, too, had our beliefs, ideologies and political preferences, but we also had an identity as scientists that we all shared. As such, we convened to voice approval to the discussion of ideas but call an end to embroilment in ideological strife.
However, it became clear from the outset that this was a non-starter! Because I piped up and said, complaining about my students who were classmates in the first year then becoming separated through bloodshed and knives under extramural dynamics, “I am losing my students either to the ‘hearths’ or the ‘mountains’!”
A rapier-like question came from a colleague:
“Are you equating those who go to the hearths with those who go to the mountains?”
In the realisation, faced with what was a very judgemental statement rather than a question, that we were flailing in vain, I came up with the reply:
“They are all our students! If you pose such a question, we will continue to lose more students to the mountains.”
The same old story, but to cap it all now students labelled “terrorist” are told, “We will deny you the right to study as well.”
This means that we will continue to lose lots more students!
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