An association representing students of the University of Cyprus issued an announcement on Monday accusing rector Constantinos Christofides of planning the abolition of democracy at the university. Fepan, which represents all the student groups of UCy, had heard of Christofides’ plans to change the way the rector, vice-rectors and deans were chosen, and expressed its complete disagreement; it would never consent to the new ‘undemocratic practice’.
The ‘undemocratic practice’ that incurred the wrath of the students was used at the universities of the US and most universities in Europe. It involved setting up a selection committee made up of former rectors of UCy, academics that won the Nobel prize and rectors of universities of other countries. This committee would choose the rector and vice-rectors, who would then join the committee and select the deans of the university’s schools. The new practice would also open up the position of UCy rector to professors from other universities, ending the closed shop that currently exists.
Fepan said “this proposal constitutes a clear violation of the democratic rights of the student and academic community of the university of Cyprus, as the process abolishes the ‘election’ and promotes ‘selection’, establishing in this way undemocratic practices.” The assumption that voting is the best way to choose a rector is absurd. Should we also introduce a vote among employees for electing the chairman of Cyta or the Electricity Authority? Perhaps we should also introduce elections at secondary schools so that the democratic right of students to vote for head teachers are respected.
The student vote in elections for university rector was thought up by our wise political parties as a way of exercising a level of control. The student groups that vote are under the direct control of the political parties, which can in this indirect way influence the result of elections. The fact that student groups have 30 per cent of the vote in rector elections is a sign of lunacy rather than of democracy. Administrative staff, like secretaries, accountants and marketeers also have a vote! When this absurd law was passed the rector at the time, Nikos Papamichael, immediately resigned to underline his disapproval.
Neither students nor administrative staff of a university have a say in the selection of a rector in respected universities of most countries that are no less democratic than Cyprus. It is not faux-democracy, which gives a say in the election of rector to clueless students and admin staff, that earns a university good standing. It is independence that is undermined by the so-called democracy imposed by political parties insisting on having a say in who becomes rector.