Students and teachers of Boğaziçi University clashed with police over the political appointment of rector for the university. Melih Bulu – who stood as a Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary candidate in 2015 – was appointed rector of Boğaziçi University by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a presidential decree issued on 1 January and sworn into office on Tuesday. The decision was met with outrage from the student body and faculty members, who interpreted Bulu’s appointment as an attempt at curtailing academic freedoms, saying the new rector was the first to be chosen from outside the university community since the 1980 military coup.
Boğaziçi University is better known for the academic independence it offers. About 1,000 people took part in the demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday, during which clashes broke out as some students attempted to break police lines to enter the university grounds. Police used teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets to break up the protests. “He is not our rector, he is not an academic, he was not chosen democratically,” said Ceren Karapınar, a linguistics student in her third year of study who marched with friends on Wednesday. “I came to Boğaziçi from Bursa; it’s the best in the country and it’s an honour to be here. The university is known for its liberal atmosphere and open-mindedness … this appointment destroys it.”
Bulu, in an interview with Turkish television, said he would not bend to the pressure to resign because his appointment “met global standards”. Police were present to stop non-students from entering campus, he added, but “Boğaziçi students can protest wherever and however they want”. The ruling party has also defended Bulu’s appointment as legal. “It is not a crime for a person to have a political view,” the AKP spokesperson, Ömer Celik, told reporters on Tuesday following a party meeting chaired by Erdoğan.
“We came here on Monday for the first, protest and had a little hope that we can change things democratically, explaining what we want, but today all the choppers are flying overhead, there are police everywhere. It’s not going to happen,” said graduate Ömer, who finished his degree in business administration last year told The Guardian.