GeriGündem Turkish academics resign from their posts to protest Gul's rector choices
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Turkish academics resign from their posts to protest Gul's rector choices

Turkish President Abdullah Gul Tuesday officially appointed the new rectors of 21 universities; a move that sparked fierce reactions from academics. Sixteen academics, including deans, resigned from three universities. (UPDATED)

Gul vetoed the elections of university chiefs who oppose lifting the headscarf ban in universities, although some of them won the voting among academic staff.


Under the law, university rectors are elected in a three-phase system. Voting is held among the academic staff and the six candidates who gain the highest vote are submitted to Turkey's Higher Education Board (YOK).      


YOK then prepares a short-list of three candidates and submits it to the president who makes the final selection. Neither the president nor YOK is obliged to elect the candidate who received the highest number of votes in the university elections.


Gul refused to appoint nine of 21 candidates who won the elections to become rectors of their universities. Instead, Gul appointed professors who were second or third in the voting.


Among the rejected candidates was Akdeniz University chief Mustafa Akaydin, who as the head of an inter-university board opposed efforts by the government earlier this year to lift the headscarf ban.


Akaydin said his opposition to lifting the headscarf ban was the reason for Gul's veto. "The president did not make the appointment due to some ideological reasons. If he was an objective president, the result would be different... I am paying the price of the headscarf issue," Akaydin told reporters late on Tuesday.


The Islamist-rooted Justice and Developments Party (AKP) government's attempt to lift the headscarf ban in universities was blocked by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it violates the secularism principle.


The government, later, survived from a closure case in the Constitutional Court, who ruled that the ruling party has constituted acts that harm secularism principles and issued a "serious warning". 


Gul also appointed Prof. Jale Sarac as rector of Dicle University in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir. Sarac, who came second in the voting at her university, had run as a candidate from the AKP in the general elections in 2007.



The initial reaction from universities came on Wednesday when 12 professors, including a dean, resigned from Istanbul Technical University (ITU) in protest to the appointments. Observers say more reactions are likely to come.


Academics from ITU gathered in the main campus of the university with the former rector, Prof. Faruk Karadogan, to protest Gul's appointments.


In the elections held at ITU, Karadogan garnered 362 votes, while his competitor Prof. Muhammed Sahin got 209 votes. Gul, however, appointed Sahin as the new chief of the university.


"Our university has a tradition. It was always governed by the people who are elected by the university staff. These resignations came to protest a practice that axes this tradition. Politics had never influenced this university like this before," Karadogan told the broadcaster NTV.


Karadogan was among the rectors who supported the stance of the inter-universities board against lifting the headscarf ban.

In Ankara, the dean of the medical faculty at Gazi University, Prof Ayse Dursun and her deputy, as well as the executive committee of the university's hospital, submitted their resignations. Gul appointed Prof Riza Ayhan as the new rector of the university. Ayhan was vetoed by former president Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

The chief physician of Dokuz Eylul University Hospital, Sedef Gidener has also resigned. Gidener was not appointed by Gul, although she received the highest number of votes in the elections both at Dokuz Eylul University and YOK.


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