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Istanbul Şehir University opens to great governmental fanfare

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 10/6/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Senior government figures addressed the recent opening of the newly convened Istanbul Şehir University.

Istanbul’s newest university represents the pinnacle of a triumphant period that has seen Turkish academia blossom, according to top government figures addressing the opening ceremony.

A student speaker, however, attempted to undermine the high emotions when he directed complaints about restricted Internet access to Turkey’s president, prime minister and foreign minister, who were all present at the ceremony.

“I am sure Istanbul Şehir University will become an international academic institution,” Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in his speech at the opening ceremony of the university. The histories of cities, civilizations and universities are combined perfectly in the university’s name, he said.

The prime minister said the decades-long period of so-called “brain drain,” when academics left Turkish universities in favor of Western schools, had changed direction and Turkish universities were attracting foreign academics, with Istanbul Şehir University a bright example of the new trend.

“There is no reason to be pessimistic,” Erdoğan said, calling for all Turkish academics still working at universities abroad to return to see how their country had changed. However he also called on university students to put all their efforts not just into obtaining a diploma, but making use of all the resources available, such as the libraries and cultural sites of the city.

President Abdullah Gül said in his speech at the event that Istanbul Şehir University would bring liveliness to Istanbul’s academic life, and in fact all of Turkey, by also contributing to the competitive atmosphere in which Turkish universities operated these days.

Istanbul Şehir University was established by the Science and Arts Foundation, or SBV, which has been delivering seminars and preparing students and academics for almost a quarter of a century. Foreign Minster Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was chairman for one term of the presidency until he became chief advisor to the prime minister in 2002, delivered the first lecture Tuesday at the opening of the academic year.

The university launched its first year with four faculties, 10 departments and two institutes, where 314 students are enrolled and about 100 academics are employed. About 85 percent of the students are on scholarships and 30 foreign students were accepted and granted full scholarships for this academic year. Lectures during the 2010-2011 academic year will be held at the Altunizade campus until the construction of facilities at the Dragos campus is complete.

[HH] Government Internet policy decried

A freshman student at the university, however, attempted to deflate the elevated mood if the opening ceremony when he appealed to the government to address Internet access issues and eradicate freedom of speech restrictions in Turkey.

Cenk Arslan, a freshman in the department of languages and literature, said restrictions on websites such as YouTube and Google had constrained his research into how to be an effective public speaker. Representing more than 300 students in a speech at the opening of the university’s academic year, Arslan directed his comments regarding freedoms of speech to Gül, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu.

“If you do not like my speech, the Internet ban played a key role in this [performance],” Arslan said, calling on authorities to do their best to lift the ban. Gül and Erdoğan both said they were impressed by the student’s self-confidence, although they did not comment on his complaint.

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