We, the students of Rethymno city on the island of Crete, have just entered the third week of our fight for free education, lower transportation costs and free food-coupons. This letter is an open appeal to the students of the world to inform them about our fight and to express our solidarity with the struggle of the students in South Africa.
In the context of the capitalist crisis in Greece, the government has decided to cut all expenses for Health Care, Education and Social Policy forcing the universities in this way either to closure or privatization. Although the latter was the “ruling’s class” goal in the last two decades, it has been opposed by the continuous struggle of the Greek student movement, and this is an attribute rather characteristic of the Greek Youth. Through various laws in the past, Greece’s ruling parties have been trying to provide universities with the legal ability to accept private investments by promoting joint ventures of universities with commercial third parties. As the Greek crisis has deepened, the ruling parties have tried to take advantage of the situation by putting through their own agenda in the Public Education. Many universities were short of public funding and were forced to seek for private subsidies. The fact that Syriza has now come to power hasn’t changed anything since the neoliberal attack to education is further intensified.
The University of Crete was hit very hard by the crisis. The budgets have been minimized to such a degree that the institution cannot even finance basic functions. Therefore many university departments face closure and are being pushed to accept the commercialization of their research. Tuition fees were introduced for many master programs and there were efforts of imposing fees for bachelor programs as well. Since Greece has never set tuition fees for its Higher Education, these changes are now considered very radical. The cut of state expenses was also reflected in transportation, housing and catering for students. The private transportation company “KTEL Chanion – Rethimnou” decided to raise the ticket price for journeys to and from the university due to reduced profitability. As far as the housing is concerned, due to the economical crisis and the growing unemployment many students can’t even afford to pay their rent. The government’s decision to stop the construction of new and free student hostels deprives students from their right to free education. In the past, Greek universities have always provided catering for students and free meals for those ones entitled to them. But now the company which has recently taken over the catering has decided to stop the free meals, to raise the prices and to lower the quality of the food.
We, the students of Rethymno, have decided to fight against the dismantling of the university and protect our right to free education. The last three weeks, through democratic procedures during our general assemblies, we have decided to occupy the rectorate and then the whole campus. These assemblies were massively-attended and as the weeks passed by our determination to continue our struggle has grown by standing decisively against the lies of the representatives of the Right (DAP-NDFK) and the neoliberal Social Democrats (PASP).
In a provocative and revengeful manner the private catering decided to close down the restaurant as long as the occupation continues in order to turn the students against the protest. The answer of the student movement was to rally in the catering offices. This action pushed the catering business to reverse its decision to close the restaurant and secured the right to free meals for 150 fellow students. We rallied also in the bus station blocking the entrance to buses, and in the town hall as well to claim our demands to the local administration.
We believe that collective action can achieve victories nowadays. The enemy is not only the ministry which plays the leading role in this attack but also and more importantly the companies which are profiting or trying to profit from it. If tuition fees are imposed to students, then this means that more money will go to the black hole of the sovereign debtors, the IMF and the bankers. The capitalists are trying to change the power relations in their own interests in order to keep their profit rates high even if that means exclusion of many students from education.
We see that the same situation exists in many countries around the world. Many students, regardless of where they come from, share the same burden due to student loans they need to take or unbearable costs related to their study. That means that the enemy has the same goal which is of course the creation of the commercial neoliberal university. In this sense we, the students of Rethymno, support the struggle of the students in South Africa for lower tuition fees and we condemn the reaction of their government which is police brutality and oppression. The students must be united based on their common class interests and not divided by their religion or the colour of their skin.
Our common targets represent the future of the society and this cannot be a future for the privileged few!
The General Assembly of the Occupied University of Rethymno
29 October 2015
The Assembly’s group on Facebook :
Several interventions of the students :