[-empyre-] Tactical Media, Research, and the University

NeMe nemeorg at gmail.com
Mon Apr 19 02:34:35 EST 2010


For many people in this region and in particular for Greek and Cypriot
readers, many aspects of my response to your topic are part of our
everyday sensibility not only because of the passion which accompanied
the actions but because they represented, and still do, a collective
action for democracy, freedom and social responsibility for academic
voice.

On 14 November 1973, the Athens Polytechnic student body with the
support of some of their professors took control of the main campus
building to protest against the then governing military Junta. They
did this by organizing a strike and commandeering the university's
radio station where they started broadcasting anti-junta pleas
directed to the residents of Athens as well as to the military. The
Colonels responded with military might ending the student revolt on
the 17th of November by sending tanks into the campus which resulted
in the killing of 24 civilians. Eight months later, on 15 July 1974,
the Junta, allegedly in collaboration with the US, organized a coup in
Cyprus which culminated in a Turkish invasion and the occupation of
40% of the country. This unsuccessful coup and developments led to the
overthrow of the Junta a few days later and democracy was restored in
Greece.

One of the subsequent legislations the new Greek parliament passed was
that of university asylum entitled "Academic freedoms and University
Asylum" (article 2, Law 1268/82).
The first paragraph of the law states: "Academic freedom in teaching
and research and the free movement of ideas is enshrined within the
Universities". The fourth paragraph states: "To ensure the academic
freedom and freedom of scientific inquiry and the free flow of ideas,
the University Asylum is recognized."
The seventh paragraph states: "Interference by the State without the
permission of the University is allowed only if caught committing a
felony or committed flagrant crimes against life." (my translation).

Admittedly the Greek law has its pitfalls and few students use it to
reportedly avoid classes or exams by staging spontaneous takeover
actions but this reflects on the issue of responsibility rather than
freedom. Recently and continuing the policy of the previous
administration’s efforts, the current PASOK government is implementing
means to rescind this law describing it as 'outdated' so another
discussion regarding the extent of State control over academic
institutions is in progress as will be, no doubt, many more
demonstrations and campus sieges by students and staff.

Another very important difference between Greek tertiary institutions
and those of other countries is not only the soon to be rescinded
Asylum but the law prohibiting the universities to contract and
undertake any top secret research. As such, the State has guaranteed
control that research activities on campus will not be of a
‘threatening nature’ to national security. This, of course, can be
seen as a limitation upon innovative academic exploration especially
in areas of great pertinence to our complex and dysfunctional present
reality. In contrast, most universities of Europe and the Americas are
contracted by their respective Governments or independent Corporations
to conduct research of a highly sensitive and top secret nature. A
lucrative contract which also brings much academic kudos together with
another type of State control.

The case of Ricardo Dominguez and in particular the locative media
artwork "Transborder Immigrant Tool" is by no means a "flagrant crime
against life" but in fact, the exact opposite, as it assists survival.
Would the authorities or other 'patriots' intervene if Dominguez named
the artwork "Forces Survival Tool" and made it exclusively available
to US soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan?
The issue here is not about the ethics of a crime nor the blatant
misuse of university funding but instead, it is the crucial question
of racial elitism which denies the nationality and perceived value of
the life that is being potentially saved by “Transborder Immigrant
Tool”. Such independence and challenging cutting edge research are not
usually accepted by governments.  The situation is urgent.
Universities and other educational institutions require courageous
administrations and agendas which implement and safeguard these
rights, bastions promoting free thinking and compassion in the spirit
of William Blake's 1790 poetic statement, [if] "the doors of
perception were cleansed [then] everything would appear to man as it
is, infinite."

In solidarity

Yiannis Colakides
http://www.neme.org


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