Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan established, by presidential decree, two new colleges at Istanbul University that have been at the center of the protests in recent weeks. These erupted when Erdogan appointed a party member there as president of the university, which, according to students and staff, conflicts with academic freedom. According to critics, Erdogan is intending the new colleges to tighten his grip on Bogazici University.
The decision to establish a new law school and a communications college came unexpectedly. Critics argue that the colleges were set up to support the new university president, Melih Polo, a rival of Erdogan’s party. Like Polo, the deans of the new colleges will be appointed on a political basis.
The new university president is now alone. Most academics at Bogazici University are calling for his departure. The new colleges would function as a “Trojan horse,” as law professor Yaman Akdeniz wrote on Twitter. President Erdoan’s spokesperson insists that the new colleges should improve the “quality” of the university.
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Since winning the last elections in 2018, Erdogan has strengthened his powers as president, including appointing university presidents and establishing new colleges in the state’s universities. Erdogan is not obligated to consult universities.
Students and academics have been demonstrating since Polo’s appointment in January, despite police crackdowns and dozens of arrests. Erdogan called the protesters “terrorists” and pledged to suppress further protests.