A member of the trustee board at Istanbul's Yeni Yüzyıl University ordered the dismissal of 17 faculty members, including three deans. Students petitioned the administration for a reversal of the decision, while the faculty members also filed a suit, but critics claim the real reason for the move was the school administration's desire to refashion the university in line with the views of the government.
The whole affair began about two months ago when 17 faculty members were fired after they received a letter signed by Ekrem Çalkılıç, a former journalist and the deputy president of the school's board of trustees.
The faculty members then appealed to an administrative court, as Law No: 2547 of the Higher Board of Education (YÖK) stipulates that the board of trustees has no authority to fire or hire employees without the rector's approval.
Some 1040 of the 1930 students enrolled in the university also threw their weight behind their teachers and petitioned the YÖK for a reversal of the decision, while the university rector also jumped on the bandwagon and voiced his opposition to the move. The YÖK consequently sent inspectors to the university twice, and their decision on the matter is still pending.
Students have said that security personnel refused to allow two faculty members inside school grounds to allow them teach their classes even on the day the inspectors from the YÖK had arrived.
The faculty members' lawyer Murat Demir told bianet that it was against the law to hire personnel with only the signature of a single member of the board of trustees and that a legal reason had to be provided even if the rector had approved the decision.
The usual suspect: Ideological motivations
Meanwhile, one of the faculty members claimed their dismissal was meant to pave the way for the expulsion of the rector whom the administration also wanted to do away with.
A student who spoke on condition of anonimity also said the administration was firing "democrat" faculty members to replace them with people closer to their own ideology:
"All the teachers who were fired from the school were democrats. They were teachers we loved and felt close to. The administration sent them away because the administrators are on the side of the government and want [to hire] people close to their own views. The contractual faculty members brought from other universities to replace our fired teachers are also people close to the administration's views. The fact that they placed [portraits] of the prime minister and the president at our school's entrance also attests to this," he said.
"We have not been attending applied courses because they still have not built the technical rooms in the school for three years anyway. Our English classes were also canceled last year because they did not pay the teachers' wages. They said they would compensate for this, but to no avail," he added.
Yeni Yüzyıl University was established three years ago. Dr. Azmi Ofluoğlu, the owner of the German Hospital in Istanbul and the head of the Vatan Health and Education Foundation (VASEV,) is currently serving as the president of the board of trustees. The school has 10 departments ranging from medicine and communication to the arts and architecture.
More lay-offs at Istanbul Technical University
Meanwhile, eight research assistants were also laid off at Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ) due to the changes enacted in their terms of employment and personal benefits. The Assistant Solidarity Initiative announced that nearly 100 more research assistants were also facing the same dire prospect. Research assistants met at İTÜ's Gümüşsuyu campus this evening to protest the YÖK's decision which they say is both "illegal and anti-democratic."
"We call upon the İTÜ's rectorship to abandon this illegal decision, just as they are rehearsing for the new YÖK law that is set to arrive in Parliament in the coming days. We are not going to leave our universities on Oct. 15, 2012 Monday to allow for our friends' immediate re-employment and to cry out louder that we are going to pursue our demands which have attracted the support of hundreds of others," the Assistant Solidarity Initiative said.
A number of artists also lent their support to the event, including Kemal Oruç, Orhan Aydın, Cihan Özdeniz, Şirvan Akan, Emin İgüs, Umut Karakoç, Utku Doğruak, Erdal Erzincan, Cengiz Özkan, Cem Polat, Paşa Altın and Emin Alper.
The artists prepared a video to highlight the lay-offs.
"[They] have begun firing research assistants due to YÖK's pressure, even though they bear the entire responsibility for universities while conducting scientific research through dedication and self-sacrifice without any job security due to [Law No: 2547 50/d of the YÖK.] Research assistants do every kind of job: They enter labs, prepare homework and read them, enter classes and act as observers in examinations. In addition to all this, they are also trying do research, write their theses and become scientists," they said in the video. (NV/BK)