Boğaziçi’s ‘collective will’ leaving vice rector’s seat open, say protesting staff

No academic has stepped up to become the vice rector of Istanbul’s Boğaziçi university, where a rector appointed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to be protested by staff and students, Duvar news site reported on Friday.

The fact that nobody has accepted to take on the role of vice rector to Melih Bulu, is “indicative of the success of this collective will,” Boğaziçi faculty said in a statement released during an on campus protest on Friday.

Bulu was appointed as rector of Turkey’s leading university by a presidential decree on Jan. 1, with the students and staff of Boğaziçi protesting the move, citing its political nature due to the 50-year-old’s links to Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Critics see the move as part of Erdoğan’s increasing grip on academia.

Turkish presidents have had the authority to appoint as rectors candidates who failed to win in rectorial elections, but a presidential decree issued during the post-coup state of emergency declared in 2016 removed the elections altogether.

“The instructors, students, alumni and workers of Boğaziçi all together reject this appointment,” the academics said.

Instructors at the prestigious university, who have been teaching online for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, gathered on campus on Friday, turning their back to the rector’s office in protest of Bulu’s appointment.

Bulu, who was a founding member of AKP’s Sarıyer district branch in Istanbul and worked as deputy chairman at AKP’s Istanbul provincial chapter, has refused to step down amid the weeks-long protest on campus, but has allowed the protests.