A year later, Boğaziçi University continues to resist

Screenshot from the video interview with one of the dismissed academics by Gerçek Gündem.

This month marks the anniversary of Boğaziçi University protests, which occurred after the appointment of a new rector by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. While the controversial government-appointed rector Melih Bulu has since been removed, the protests continue at the prestigious school.

The conflict began with the external appointment of a new rector on January 1, 2021, in what students and academics called another step in Turkey's democratic backslide, comparing it to the replacement of over one hundred elected mayors with government appointees in recent years. Over the last year, students had frequent clashes with police and organized sit-ins on campus. Meanwhile, the university's faculty members protested by turning their backs against the rectorate building every day since the protests began.

Then in July, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) removed Melih Bulu through a midnight decree, replacing the former rector with Professor Naci İnci, previously the head of the university's physics department who served as deputy rector during Bulu's term as rector. The decision sparked further protests that continue to this day.

The school has an extensive internal election process, so the two external appointments were viewed as a “breach of academic freedom as it bypassed rectorate elections and was the first time a person from outside the university had been placed in the rectorial seat since the coup of September 12, 1980,” reported Gazete Duvar.

On January 3, 2022, academics at the school released a statement vowing to continue resisting the appointment of Inci as the rector, in what they described a “nontransparent” process that was “disregarding the will of the university.”

Can Candan was dismissed in July 2021 from the university's Western Languages and Literatures Department's Film Studies Certificate Program on the orders of the newly appointed rector. Tweeting from his personal account, he wrote:

Exactly one year ago today, on January 3, as academics of Bogazici University we said for the first time #WeRefuseToAcceptWeWontGiveUp. We continue to defend our values and our university, for the sake of a free, independent and democratic university in Turkey.

In addition to Candan, Inci also fired academic staff Feyzi Erçin, Özcan Vardar, and Seda Binbaşgil —despite objections by students and faculty members alike. Additionally, scores of university students were subject to police violence in the past year, and at least two Boğaziçi students, Berke Gök and Perit Özen have been in police custody since October 2021, according to Bianet. Also in October, Inci secured suspension of several students from the school who took part in protests against his appointment.

In her reflections of the past year, university Professor Ayşe Gürel wrote,

For a year, Boğaziçi University, which is one of the very few public universities in Turkey that is financially accessible to many young people and offers a world-class education, is being destroyed in a planned way. Like many of my colleagues who have dedicated their lives to this university, as a common value of this country, I regret what happened. I think that the administration that led the university to this planned destruction and all the people and organizations responsible for this will have to answer to this country and especially to the youth of the country. Regardless, we will continue to fight and say what we think is right so that this institution can survive these shocks.

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