Athens Polytechnic comes to UC Davis

by John Q on November 22, 2011

A Greek friend has sent me lots of information on links between the suppression of dissent at UC Davis and similar events in Greece from the days of the military junta to the present. Here’s a video commemorating the 1973 uprising centred on Athens Polytechnic, which led to the downfall of the military junta the following year[1].  the last title says “The Polytechneio lives on. In struggles today.” Link

Among the legacies of the uprising was a university asylum law that restricted the ability of police to enter university campuses. University asylum was abolished a few months ago, as part of a process aimed at suppressing anti-austerity demonstrations. The abolition law was based on the recommendatiions of an expert committee, which reported a few months ago (report here, in Greek). There’s an English translation here, but it doesn’t work well for me.

Fortunately, my friend has translated the key recommendations

University campuses are unsafe. While the [Greek] Constitution permits the university leadership to protect campuses from elements inciting political instability, Rectors have shown themselves unwilling to exercise these rights and fulfill their responsibilities, and to take the decisions needed in order to guarantee the safety of the faculty, staff, and students. As a result, the university administration and teaching staff have not proven themselves good stewards of the facilities with which society has entrusted them. 

The politicizing of universities – and in particular, of students – represents participation in the political process that exceeds the bounds of logic. This contributes to the rapid deterioration of tertiary education. 

Among the authors of this report – Chancellor Linda Katehi, UC Davis. And, to add to the irony, Katehi was a student at Athens Polytechnic in 1973.


fn1. The fall of the Greek junta, only a year after Pinochet’s coup in Chile was, in retrospect, a historic turning point, after which rule by generals became steadily less common.



Harald Korneliussen 11.22.11 at 2:21 pm

“Participation in the political process that exceeds the bounds of logic” sounds awesome. It might make a good slogan, if slogans were what we needed :)


straightwood 11.22.11 at 2:28 pm

The world is becoming increasingly polarized between authoritarians and populists. Because the universities encourage the values of honesty and reason, and because students are less corrupted than mature members of society, beneficial social change tends to emerge on campuses before it becomes mainstream. Thus the outcomes of these campus struggles are important indicators of the future direction of society.

Academics today face the same painful question that each generation asks: Which side are you on?


mds 11.22.11 at 3:00 pm

As a result, the university administration and teaching staff have not proven themselves good stewards of the facilities with which society has entrusted them.

She’s at least partly correct here. So when does she resign?


Ray Davis 11.22.11 at 3:02 pm

I’m with Harald, and hard put to find a better description of (ideal) democracy.


cian 11.22.11 at 3:06 pm

Its also a nice inversion of the arguments for neoliberalism.


Carlos Ferreira 11.22.11 at 3:14 pm

I especially like this bit:

The politicizing of universities – and in particular, of students – represents participation in the political process that exceeds the bounds of logic. This contributes to the rapid deterioration of tertiary education.

Says a lot about what universities are progressively being seen as: not as places of knowledge and critical thinking, but as producers of tertiary education, whose remit is to produce the people that will deliver economic growth. Sad; I remember a time when Universities’ agenda was to teach people to think.


Gene O'Grady 11.22.11 at 3:27 pm

I was in Athens for most of December 1972. One of my most unforgettable memories of that time is being repeatedly warned by Americans who had been there for longer periods of time not to express my opinions in quite private conversations because someone might be listening and we would all get in trouble. That widespread fear, and the silly signs everywhere saying “Zeto ho stratos.”


Meredith 11.22.11 at 3:52 pm

Gene O’Grady, my first time in Greece was in the summer of 1972. That soldier emerging from the phoenix everywhere, and “Zeto ho 21 Apriliou,” marking the ascension of “the colonels” (thanks to our CIA).
For more on the co-optation over the years of many student leaders from the Polytechnic:

Katehi’s current institutional role in Athens Polytechnic, and its recent rescinding of university asylum: wow. The kind of organizational flow-chart I’ve been looking for.


Latro 11.22.11 at 4:43 pm

To put a dissenting opinion, but not by much, I remember my time in Venezuela and how the Universidad Central managed to politicize itself to the point of having armed bands of masked thugs burning buses on a regular, once a week schedule, intimidating other students and teachers, having long-standing (non)students that only lived for the “political process” inside, etc…

Of course, from legitimizing that chaos to saying that universities have no role but to produce apolitic cogs for the economy, or using that excuse to ramp up the repression when implementing the agendas of “for the rich, by the rich, with the rich”… I guess I prefer enough room for miscreants instead of saying that universities and, by extension, students, are out of politics


Doug M. 11.22.11 at 5:07 pm

“which led to the downfall of the military junta the following year”

That’s kind of a myth. It’s a myth that’s hardwired into modern Greek historiography, but it’s still a myth.

The colonels fell because of the Cyprus disaster. Their regime was already shaky, sure — the protests, the bad economic situation, and the internal purge in which Ioannidis and the hardliners had pushed out Papadopolous. But up until Cyprus, it was still hanging in there.

The actual collapse of the regime came in late July 1974. That was eight months after the student uprising (November ’73) but just two weeks after the Turks routed the Greeks in Cyprus.

The student protests played a part in weakening the regime, no question. But it was humiliating defeat that actually brought the junta down.

Doug M.


bert 11.22.11 at 5:37 pm

Ten minute listen in which this woman reminisces:


Xerographica 11.22.11 at 5:49 pm

“To guard against despotic royal rule, parliament sought to limit the kings’ powers to impose taxes so as to curtail their ability to maintain a standing army beyond times of war and immediate external threat” – The evolution of parliament’s power of the purse.

It was a progressive move when parliament took control of taxes from the king and it would be a progressive revolution for taxpayers to take control of taxes from parliament. We all understand the value of having transferred control of taxes from the king to parliament…but why don’t any progressive leaders understand the value of empowering taxpayers?

Oh wait…I know what the problem is. Progressive leaders want the power as much as conservatives do! Each party wants to be the small group of blind men deciding the scope of government for the entire country.

Liberals taking charge is not “change”…it’s called maintaining the status quo of conveniently being able to blame the other side when the car ends up in the ditch. And the car has always ended up in the ditch and will continue to end up in the ditch because it’s economically impossible for 535 congresspeople to allocate public goods as efficiently as millions and millions of taxpayers could.


Barry Freed 11.22.11 at 5:53 pm

represents participation in the political process that exceeds the bounds of logic

Say what now?!

The fox is in the henhouse.


S. D. 11.22.11 at 6:39 pm

Greek here, and I’ve only been a student in greek universities. This post is pretty one-sided and the way your source addresses a foreign academic VERY far removed from daily greek academic practice is a bit disingenuous as well. The universty asylum resulted from a very liberal interpretation of the right to academic freedom that the populist governments of the 80s then passed into law as a way to pander to a particular slice of the greek left that claimed special identification with the events described in your post. The law always allowed for police intervention but in practice a general unwillingness prevailed on the part of everyone involved (academics, police, public prosecutors) to allow police to enter university buildings. The results ranged from the ridiculous, where police did not bother to ask the required special permission to enter huge campuses for purposes of common crime investigation (property theft, muggings etc), to the embarrasingly self-defeating, where far right and far left groups (maybe students, maybe not) would interrupt classes and beat up professors or other students with impunity. I would ask your source to make available to you some examples of this sort in english, and also to go into detail about what kind of results the kind of student corporatism (ask your friend to explain the word “traboukos”) that these “asylum” laws allowed has had for the administration and the general quality of greek university institutions. Additionally, if your source is an engineer, they will probably be quite able to give you an estimate of how much water each of these student political bodies has carried for their parent political parties and their academic concerns.


John Quiggin 11.22.11 at 7:39 pm

@SD You don’t seem to me to have stated a case here.

Granted that the law had costs as well as benefits (and that you see the costs as too high), are you disputing the claim that its removal in August 2011 was a response to the specific circumstances of the austerity crisis rather than a random coincidence?

And assuming that “a foreign academic VERY far removed from daily greek academic practice” refers to Katehi, in what way is that exculpatory? The same description applies to most of those involved in making the recommendation, so the obvious inference from what you write is that they were responding to pressure, presumably from the authorities, to recommend the end of asylum.


Barry 11.22.11 at 8:09 pm

Xerographica, do you have a point, or do you actually figure that Glibertarianism 101 still carries some intellectual weight?


bert 11.22.11 at 8:14 pm


Meredith 11.22.11 at 8:14 pm

Now having read the whole report, I don’t know what to say about it. Most of it seems to be trying to address what, as I understand from other sources (mostly = academics with left-wing politics and undergraduate degrees from the U of Athens or of Crete but graduate degrees from places like Oxford and top US grad schools — the Greek brain drain), are very real problems with Greek universities (way beyond the asylum issue). I have no way of evaluating the solutions proposed in the report. I’m nervous about its bureaucratic-speak and its emphasis on the university’s role as a driver of the economy, but the latter may be the only way to get the politicians’ attention there (as here).


Tim Wilkinson 11.22.11 at 8:40 pm

Fascinating bit of autobiography there, Meredith.


Stella 11.22.11 at 8:59 pm

We can damn her for many things, mostly for forgetting the tanks entering the Polytechnic and not having that sensitivity in her job at Davis, but this report I think, is not that damning. Read it in Greek and this is the standard higher education language across the world.


Natilo Paennim 11.22.11 at 10:26 pm

I’m not reading John as suggesting that Katehi is some kind of sinister Machiavel who’s been plotting the pepper-spraying for ages. That she is involved is just a weird little irony of fate. The fact that specific people are making these decisions really isn’t as significant as the fact that they’re being made. Why do we find ourselves, at the end of this year, inhabiting a world that seems radically different from where we were a year ago? I don’t particularly think that this is la lutte finale, but it is certainly striking that we’re seeing so much dissent, organized and expressed in very similar ways, and so much repression of that dissent, also transnational in its character.

The Greek patricians of antiquity gave us democracy — here’s to hoping the heroic Greek plebians of today will give us anarchy!


Ray 11.22.11 at 10:27 pm

“And, to add to the irony, Katehi was a student at Athens Polytechnic in 1973.”

On which side?


Panagiotis 11.22.11 at 10:31 pm

Mr. Quiggin, if you knew how far off you are from understanding the situation in the Greek Universities due to the existence of “asylum”, you would retract this posting very quickly. The faculty and the majority of students have not had any protection from “trambouki” for over a decade. There has been no freedom of speech in the Universities for years — the slightest disagreement with any extreme idea, coming from the left or the right, will send you to the hospital, your office door walled with bricks, your office looted.

I am afraid that in your excitement to finding the irony in Katehi’s position you did not do the necessary fact finding.


Gene O'Grady 11.22.11 at 11:12 pm

Meredith or anyone else who is familiar with the American academic situation in Greece, a question. I heard sort of hush-hush rumors that some of the American archeological mandarins were tight with the regime — does anyone know if there was any truth in this? I doubt they were part of the CIA, but who knows? I’ve always found the American Greek archeological-epigraphic establishment, or at least the males, somewhat offputting, as opposed to some of the archeologists I met later in Italy.

I’ll never forget my Christmas dinner Athens 1972 during the big bombing of Hanoi — Nixon’s two daughters and their husbands (David Eisenhower was in the navy in the Mediterranean at the time) walked into the restaurant and sat at the table next to ours (there was hardly anyone else there). Their secret service guards sat at another table, conspicuous by guns under their suits which looked like something out of a very bad gangster movie, and the fact that they were paying with large denomination American currency.


piglet 11.23.11 at 12:27 am

In case anybody cares: Response from

On behalf of the Board of Regents, thank you for your email regarding the appalling incidents that occurred by police against protestors on the University of California Berkeley and Davis campuses. Please know that your concerns will be forwarded to the Regents shortly so that they are all made aware of your serious concerns.

Several statements have been released by the University regarding these incidents. We hope that the following statements and actions taken by the Regents, the President, the Academic Senate, and the Chancellors will help address at least some of the concerns you expressed.

* UC Board of Regents Chairman Sherry Lansing has released a video statement that she is “shocked and appalled” by the images of police actions during recent incidents at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, and that she supports President Yudof’s effort to review systemwide procedures so that students can engage in peaceful protests. Regent Lansing also informed the UC community that the Board of Regents will meet by teleconference next Monday, November 28 at four locations around the state. That meeting will include an expanded public comment period to allow students greater access to express their views to the Board. Regent Lansing’s video statement is available here: Please note that tuition increases are not on the Regents November 28 agenda:
* Regarding the situation at UC Berkeley, last week President Mark Yudof released a letter to UC students expressing his distress over the incident, and his confidence that campus leadership will conduct a fair review of the unfortunate events (
* Following the incident at UC Davis, President Mark Yudof issued a statement that he was appalled by the situation and that he will do everything in his power to protect the rights of UC students, faculty, and staff to engage in non-violent protest (
* President Yudof yesterday convened the chancellors of all 10 campuses, indicating that UCOP senior leadership will examine the incidents, thoroughly review police procedures and training, and recommend long-term practices to ensure the safety of those demonstrating peaceful protest (
* Regents Faculty Representative and Academic Senate Chair Robert Anderson has forwarded to President Yudof four statements adopted by the UC Systemwide Academic Council regarding the imperative that campuses should exercise restraint in responding to peaceful protests and that UC faculty support the right of free speech by all members of the UC community. The UC Academic Council also reiterated its opposition to the state’s divestment in higher education (
* Chancellor Linda Katehi has apologized for the incidents on the Davis campus ( and issued two media releases stating that the police chief and officers involved in the UC Davis incident have been placed on administrative leave (; She also released a letter to the UC Davis community indicating that a task force of faculty, students, and staff will be formed to review the events, and that the UCD Office of Student Affairs will review policies in relation to encampments and consider whether they reflect the current needs of students (
* Chancellor Robert Birgeneau issued a statement to the UC Berkeley campus that he has asked the Chair of the UCB Police Review Board to launch an immediate investigation into the police actions on that campus (

Again, we hope that these statements help allay at least some of your valid concerns. Though it was an egregious situation that prompted you to write the Board, the Regents always appreciate your taking the time to express your views regarding any issue involving the University of California. Please feel free to continue to do so in the future.


Marsha Kelman
Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents


Meredith 11.23.11 at 12:30 am

If Gene and I may be forgiven our senescent reminiscences (you never forget sharing, while young and eager, a small space with a goatherd — and a goat — on a Greek ferry, or ouzo with a Greek sailor on a Heraklion rooftop, or the taste of a fresh-pulled fig that you’ve checked for wasps — Greeks, like the OWS’ers, have much to teach us besides all that democracy polisci stuff).
Gene, I actually know a little more about Italian than Greek archaeologists, and still more about archaeologists working in the Near/Middle East and northern Africa. (But not a great deal about any of them. Am not an archaeologist myself!) Hard to imagine many classical archaeologists anywhere being tight with any “regime,” though they do have to play their cards carefully and maneuver in and out, just to get “permissions.” More likely that the CIA could use archaeologists as dupes sometimes — simple “harmless” information sources, say, over a casual drink at a bar. (Same way they used Peace Corps volunteers.)
The mystery to me is the Greek-German archaeological connection. After all the terrible experiences of WWII, why do Greeks still favor German archaeologists for projects? Maybe they won’t, after Angela and all this….


js. 11.23.11 at 12:46 am

bert @17:

Great link. Thanks. (Also, yikes!)


Tim Wilkinson 11.23.11 at 12:48 am

Hard to imagine many classical archaeologists anywhere being tight with any “regime,”…More likely that the CIA could use archaeologists as dupes sometimes

A bona fide question: what makes you think this?


Andreas Moser 11.23.11 at 1:15 am

I prefer Dr Pepper over pepper spray.


Meredith 11.23.11 at 1:54 am

Tim Wilkinson,
Not sure whence your automatic hostility to virtually anything I say. Gee, sorry I breathe some of the air that is yours by right, I guess.
Anyway, what makes me think ” this” is the distressing disinterest in politics, or the unreflecting, liberal politics, of most archaeologists I know and have known for some 40 years. Anecdotal, to be sure — that’s the reason for my “autobiographical” details at times, even if they bore you — a way of noting that my sources are merely anecdotal on some issues. Including this one.
There’s pepper spray, and then there’s the more familiar form of intimidation, the sly, and repeated, mild insult. Sorry, I’ve been around too long to be intimidated by the latter, that’s for sure.


Tim Wilkinson 11.23.11 at 2:36 am

re: bert’s link @17.

The article provides an especially pointed critique of the definition of what counts as “non-ideological” or “technocratic” in 2011.

Meredith – I lose track of whom I’ve responded to, but I do accept my previous remark on this thread must have come over as hostile, rather than as a flippant allusion to detailed 1st person reports of inconclusive opinion, and that it was very low on value added. I expect I should have apologised for it or something before trying to ask my bona fide question.


Meredith 11.23.11 at 6:48 am

Tim Wilkinson, fair enough.


Harald Korneliussen 11.23.11 at 7:46 am

Natilo Paennim: The Greek patricians of antiquity gave us democracy

Well, for one thing, it was hardly the patricians. Solon gave poor, free people some rights, but for tactical reasons of stability rather than any dedication to egalitarianism – mostly as a firebreak against further progress. That came later, and mostly from below (though not without noble spokesmen, such as Pericles).

For another thing, their democracy was based on drawing of lots rather than voting. Voting they viewed as oligarchic. If you propose drawing legislators by lot today, many people would call it anarchy, and conversely, I don’t think ancient Athenians would consider what we have today democracy.


Tenney Naumer 11.23.11 at 7:17 pm

I lived in Greece in 1977 and 1978. I first went there as a student of ancient history and archaeology with Lake Forest College. I met people who had been at the University of Athens when it was attacked by the forces of the military junta. Deaths were vastly under-reported. Ambulances that arrived at the scene and picked up injured gave up the injured to the military police and students were sent to jail where they were tortured. Tanks roamed the streets. It is truly disgusted that this woman is a chancellor of an American university in California.


Tenney Naumer 11.23.11 at 7:22 pm

@ Gene O’Grady

re: “I heard sort of hush-hush rumors that some of the American archeological mandarins were tight with the regime—does anyone know if there was any truth in this?”

I do not believe this is true at all. I knew many Americans with the archaeological community. They were most certainly not supportive of the junta! One in particular had been put in jail during the attack on the University of Athens.


burritoboy 11.23.11 at 7:58 pm

Voting IS either aristocratic or oligarchic, and not democratic. Democracy is either direct rule of the entire citizenry, or selection by drawing lots. That was the interpretation until the 17th or even the 18th century. Joan Tronto argued recently – and I think correctly – that the modern re-interpretation of voting as democratic is in fact incorrect.


Ebenezer Scrooge 11.23.11 at 8:40 pm

Harald & Burritoboy,
Maybe voting is not democracy, but I’m not sure that lots were democratic either. Nobody accused the Venetians of being democrats, but they were very keen on selecting officials by lottery (often with some voting thrown in.) The motive was to to protect the Venetian aristocracy as a whole from being taken over by a small oligarchy.


NewYorker 11.24.11 at 2:56 pm


ajay 11.25.11 at 10:14 am

Hard to imagine many classical archaeologists anywhere being tight with any “regime,”…More likely that the CIA could use archaeologists as dupes sometimes

I am a bit surprised by this: there’s a long history of archaeologists being involved in all sorts of covert intelligence work. TE Lawrence, to take one really obvious example.


Meredith 11.26.11 at 5:04 am

ajay, history is long, and it is specific, tediously so. We’re talking the last 40 or 50 years re Greece, not back to TE in the Middle East (and he wasn’t an archaeologist, anyway).


lvcappuccino 11.26.11 at 11:54 pm

According to an article on Sacramento Bee this month, Katehi is planning to bring more students from one cpuntry where economy is blooming, because out-of-state tuition is higher. One UC Davis student who is a campus tour-guide said Katehi pays a lot for campus tour to invite the people from that country. I saw the buses carrying them and stopped in the middle of the street near the campus. Does she really care the safety of the stduents more than money? Did she forget that UC Davis is a public school, not her private school?


Howard Zochlinski 11.28.11 at 7:24 am

Re: The Regents and Katehi:

Marsha Kelman, Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents, wrote an extended piece – may I say, it’s all BS. I have been fighting the Regents for 20 years now. They foster a “Custom, policy and practice” of retaliation and have long institutional memories. Their subordinates are willing to engage in tactics that are not only illegal, but uncivil and dangerous as they expect immunity from lawsuits or other other means of being held accountable.

For those who have forgotten – see I was there. I was subjected to several arrests on trumped up charges as well as efforts to have me entrapped in drug deals – even while the police were protecting drug dealers who informed for them – see the article in a Santa Barbara paper on one John Edgar – the article talks about the refusal of police to arrest him, but not on his informing for them.

My own story illustrates their savagery – as I would not plead out to the false charges and it appeared I would be acquitted, Detective Jones of the UCSBPD, who had called me Jewboy and other epithets, had me beaten and gang raped in the Santa Barbara County Jail. It took a long time to get over that. Then, in 1992, while at UC Davis, I was arrested again on false charges by this same officer – he had transferred. Even though his superiors already had called him a liar, a slacker and a coward over an incident in which he allowed a skin-head gang to beat an Asian man, the University support Jones. When I stated I would tell the jury of Jones past, they turned on me, told people that UCD’s Jones was not UCSB’s Jones, and began a slander campaign that I was a “Dangerous, delusional, paranoid schizophrenic” in order to undermine my support on campus. It wasn’t until a journalist investigated my story in 2000 that the faculty began to support me [].

In 2005 I had my due process hearing. The vote was one sided – 92% of the voting faculty voted for my reinstatement. The administration refuses; and extended the slander campaign to have me slandered within my own community – the Jewish community in Sacramento.

So, anything the Regents say, I have learned, is a lie designed to cover the true nature of the fascist-like regime.

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