Exerted pressure from the government and the rectors appointed by the government on students’ living spaces and bans on graduation ceremonies motivate students to act together.
The pressure against students’ living spaces exerted by the political power and the rectors appointed by the government manifested itself with bans on the graduation ceremonies.
Last year, the class representative, who had just graduated from Hacettepe University, Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Kaya Avşar’s speech was tried to be blocked by Dean Prof. Dr. Deniz Demiryürek. Newly graduated students booed this attempt.
Bogazici University faculty members and students have been showing their reactions against the appointed rectors for more than a year. However, lately, the appointed Bosphorus University rector decided not to hold the graduation due to a lack of budget. Boğaziçi University students reacted immediately against this call. Despite the physical intervention of private security and the threatening e-mail of the rectorate, students held alternative graduation in the appointed rector’s absence.
And as the latest example, Middle East Technical University (METU) graduation, which attracts people’s interest every year, was banned by the appointed rector of the university, Verşan Kök, on the pretext of security reasons.
Joint reaction against the ban at METU
When the cancellation news of the graduation ceremony was announced to students via e-mail, all components of the school, including student societies, youth organizations, alum associations, Education and Science Workers’ Union’ (Eğitim-Sen) METU Representative, came together to form a common reaction. After the call to all components of the school and forums with students from all departments brought students and alum associations together.
These forums, which were held democratically with METU components, showed that the unity in the school became stronger despite the pressures and bans. For taking a holistic action against this ban, the departments contacted faculty members, students -both graduate or undergraduate- one by one, held department-wide meetings while establishing their graduation representatives. In this process, the participation of communities, independent students, and the establishment of graduation representatives revealed that student representations at school are both a need and a desire for students.
The democratically selected alum representatives of each department repeatedly requested meetings from the rectorate through petitions. But unfortunately, the rectorate was dead silent. Then, of course, a common reaction arose not only from the students but also from the faculty members of all departments when the joy of graduation from the students, an essential tradition of the university, was taken away from them. In a very short time, the faculty members of the 38 departments published the declarations on their departments’ websites stating the rectorate must withdraw the graduation ban, and the METU graduation should be held in Devrim (Revolution) Stadium. Upon the deep silence of the Rectorate and its unresponsiveness to the students’ demands, the students and many graduates who came to the alum day on the 30th of July made a press statement in front of the rectorate. They stated the graduation would be held on August 6, whether the rector wants or not.
While the Rectorate forbade the graduation at the Devrim Stadium, it also stated that the official graduation would occur in front of the departments. While some departments reserved halls from the Culture and Congress Center, some departments handed out their diplomas to their students at a table in the department car parks.
Some departments’ 2022 graduates showed that they did not recognize the rectorate’s decision by protesting the graduation ceremonies held in front of the departments. Perhaps the most impressive one of these protests were held by the Computer Engineering students’.
On the day when the diplomas were handed out, the Computer Engineering students went to the hall where their department’s “official” graduation ceremony was held. Following the department’s faculty members’ speeches on how the graduation ceremony was supposed to be held in the Devrim Stadium, the diplomas would be distributed by reading the students’ names. But Computer Engineering students stood up, took off their robes, and sat down when their names were called. Thus, none of the graduating students received their diplomas, except for one, and they showed their reactions to this decision of the rectorate with a very impressive protest.
Graduation on the shoulders of students, academicians, and alums
In their protests on the 30th of July and the “official” diploma ceremonies, The METU students showed that they would not tolerate any oppression or bans but resist along with the alums and faculty members. Students also worked to organize the graduation ceremony on 6 August together. The students did all kinds of work together, from arranging for the alums and faculty members to gather and enter the stadium to directing the families to the stadium. The students even organized and carried out the sound system and the performances. As a result, METU components, which were unified that day, realized the graduation day on the shoulders of students, academicians, and alums.
On the 6th of August, even just for 4 hours, METU students, graduates, and academics were in power, not the appointed.
(Photo: Personal archive)