Erdoğan appoints long term member of his ruling party to head top university

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu as the rector to Boğaziçi University, one of the country’s best, along with several other appointments made in a presidential order on Friday.

Bulu holds a doctorate in business administration from the same university, and has taught in the Istanbul Şehir University, Istinye University and Haliç University, where he was rector prior to his appointment.

The newly appointed rector is best known for his work for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

According to Zeynep Altıok akatlı, former lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Bulu has worked as a founding member of AKP’s Sarıyer district branch in Istanbul, AKP’s Istanbul provincial chapter deputy chairman, and tossed his hat in the ring as AKP candidate for mayor of Istanbul’s Ataşehir district and parliamentary candidate for Istanbul in local and general elections.

“Melih Bulu has successfully completed his academic career in the AKP organisation,” Altıok Akatlı said.

“Politicization of Turkish universities a common strategy alongside crushing of independent/critical Turkish media,” said Stockholm University faculty Christian Christensen in a tweet.

Students and alumni have been protesting the appointment under the hashtag, #KayyumRektörİstemiyoruz, which translates to “We don’t want a government proxy as a rector,” using the word favoured by the government as it replaces elected mayors in the country’s Kurdish-majority east and southeast.

The previous rector appointment to Boğaziçi had also been subject to debate and protests, as Erdoğan appointed Mehmed Özkan as rector in 2016.

Özkan hadn’t run in the elections for rector and was instead appointed by the president directly.

Turkish presidents have had the authority to appoint persons who had not come first in elections, but a presidential decree issued during the post-coup state of emergency declared in 2016 removed the elections altogether.

“Universities produce science for the prosperity and future of this country and society, not so you can remain in power,” said students from the Middle East Technical University, another one of Turkey’s top universities that has also had an unelected rector appointed in recent years.

Student group Boğaziçi Women’s Solidarity said the university was “home to scientists, not politicians and sycophants.”