July 28, 2021

In Turkey, Erdogan sacks controversial rector of Bosporus University

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked without explanation, Thursday, July 15, Melih Bulu, the controversial rector of the prestigious Bosphorus University (Bogazici), in Istanbul, which he himself had appointed six months earlier to this post. , sparking an unprecedented protest movement on the part of teachers and students.

Melih Bulu, a falot academic best known for his loyalty to the Justice and Development Party (AKP, in power since 2002), was removed from his post by a presidential decree issued in the middle of Wednesday night in Thursday, two terse lines that do not explain the reasons for this dismissal.

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The decision to dismiss the contested rector came after a meeting of the Higher Education Council (YÖK), which assessed his latest decisions. The allegations of plagiarism regarding his doctoral thesis were also discussed.

Turkish Harvard

The Turkish president’s turnaround is inexplicable. It comes after a particularly stubborn student protest movement, organized on the campus of this prestigious public establishment, considered the Turkish Harvard, where education is done in English and where a good part of the political and intellectual elite of the country have been formed.

As soon as Mr. Bulu was appointed in January, hundreds of students mobilized to demand his departure. Deployed in and around the campus, the police had arrested hundreds of protesters, going so far as to handcuff the university entrance gate to prevent young people from entering. President Erdogan then called the protesters “Terrorists”, promising to do “Whatever is necessary” to stop the movement.

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Deaf to these threats, a good part of the faculty joined the protest. Since January, professors dissatisfied with the appointment of the new rector have adopted the habit of gathering in silence under the windows of his office, dressed in their gowns, with their backs turned in protest. More broadly, academics were offended by the parachuting of this close to Mr. Erdogan’s party, considered a serious attack on the independence of universities.

Bring intellectual circles in line

Since the failed coup of July 15, 2016, Mr. Erdogan has appointed university rectors by decree, without taking into account the opinions of their peers, a measure perceived as a desire to bring the intellectual circles in line with him. resist. In the past, the university’s board of directors carried out a preselection, a list of candidates was then submitted to the president who selected one. From now on, the Head of State appoints whoever he sees fit.

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