Sept 12 bans continue in universities

Sept 12 bans continue in universities

The amendments the Higher Education Board (YÖK) set in place in the disciplinary regulations of administrators, academia, assistants and staff in higher education institutions were not debated adequately by the Turkish public and academic circles.

While evaluating these amendments, the study conducted by the Science Academy Ethics Commission will be our base. This academy was founded by a group of distinguished scientists who had resigned from the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA) when the government removed its independence. The Science Academy, as a nongovernmental organization, observes scientific merit, integrity and principles of freedom.

The amendments, which were published in the Official Gazette on Jan. 29, re-arranged the boundaries of individual and scientific freedoms, removed some actions and activities from the scope of disciplinary action, eased some enforcement and increased the enforcements for some others.

Taking a look at the ones that were removed, for example, “any kind of advantage obtained from the institution illegally” used to be considered a crime, for example using a vehicle that was for official use outside legal boundaries. These kinds of crimes used to be punished by dismissal from a post.

The Science Academy criticizes the amendments as such, “The actions the penalties of which were revoked are mostly made up of activities that fall into the jurisdiction of the university administrations; it gives the impression that these revisions are creating the opportunity for administrative authorities to shift into a more arbitrary management style.”

On the other hand, there are some the academy finds positive that have been removed from the list of what can be punished. Among them are “leaving the province resided in” or “filing a mass application or a mass complaint” or “to hold in office all kinds of banned publications that are not relevant to his/her scientific expertise.”

According to the academy, “the fact that the actions that were regarded as crimes are no longer evaluated as resulting in any penalties, even though it is belated, should be regarded as a development widening individual freedom.”

Meanwhile, the deed that is defined as “acting with the intention of changing or removing any of the features of the Republic” is also not regarded as a criminal activity anymore. YÖK has removed this phrase all together from the text. Previously, the penalty for this action was dismissal from the public post.

What was present in the rest of the article has been kept in the new version, which are defined as, “Joining in actions with ideological, political, destructive, separatist intentions or supporting these actions, disrupting the peace, calm and work order of the institutions, participating in action such as boycotts, occupation, blocking, slowing down work and strikes or not showing up for work in masses for these intentions, to provoke and encourage them, to aid them.”     

The Science Academy pointed out at this stage that academia is now free to stage actions against the features of the Republic, and while this was being done, concepts such as “ideological and political action” – defined in general and with uncertain content – are being kept within the scope of crime.
On the other hand, there are other actions that have been kept as crimes, with the same punishments – “to hold a meeting, deliver a speech, or hold a conference, concert, ceremony, panel discussion and similar events in the workplace without receiving permission from university authorities beforehand.” 

Likewise, just as it was before, it is still a crime to “inform or make a statement on official matters to the press, news agencies or radio and television broadcasts without any authorization, except for scientific debates and statements.”

The Science Academy, after listing these ongoing bans, has expressed these criticisms: “The whole of these arrangements have the image of sets that are sought to be drawn in front of the individual’s freedom of thought. In no place and in no time where the expression of ideas has been restricted, has there been an advance in science, philosophy, art and, in short, in human thinking. When there is no freedom of thought and expression, there is no science either.”

I felt the need to look at the entire regulation on the Internet. Because the former regulation is maintained and only certain amendments were made for it, its date when it first went into effect was there. It was Aug. 21, 1982.

Even though the Sept. 12 coup leader Kenan Evren is being tried, obviously his ideas keep hanging over our universities, even after 32 years.

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Feb 21. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.