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Controversial university rector in İstanbul faces probe due to anti-democratic policies

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An investigation has been launched into the rector of the İstanbul-based Boğaziçi University, whose appointment by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led to protests, over a criminal complaint filed by students citing the university administration’s anti-democratic policies, the Sözcü daily reported on Thursday.

Following the launch of the investigation by prosecutors, Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) also decided to examine the actions of Rector Naci İnci and the university administration policies criticized by the students.

The complaint filed by the students came after a decision by the rector’s office to restructure the faculties, which drew strong reactions from both students and academics.

The university administration prevented 10 students’ entry to the campus and canceled their university ID cards for attending the issuance of a press release and a forum organized to oppose the division of faculties.

Students filed a criminal complaint at the İstanbul Courthouse following the developments.

“With the strength we derive from our classmates, we know very well how to resist these policies attempting to suppress our demand for a democratic university. We categorically reject the arbitrary exclusion of our friends from the campus,” Berkay Morkan, one of the students, said during a statement to the press in front of the courthouse.

A prolonged series of protests took place at Boğaziçi University after Erdoğan appointed Professor Melih Bulu, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Sarıyer district branch and former deputy chairman of the AKP’s İstanbul provincial chapter, as rector in January 2021.

Shortly after Bulu’s dismissal by a presidential decree in July 2021, the university community demanded that a democratic election be held at the university to elect a new rector, adding that they would not accept the appointment of a rector to replace Bulu, either from within or without the university, since they opposed the appointment of rectors by Erdoğan.

However, Erdoğan on August 20 appointed İnci, a former deputy to Bulu, as the new rector, despite a 95 percent disapproval rating he received in polls held among the university community to determine possible rector candidates, again prompting outrage among academics and students.

University staff members have been standing with their backs turned to the rectorate building every day in protest of the presidentially appointed rectors.

Erdoğan is accused by critics of trying to eliminate academic freedom in the country by appointing figures close to his government as university rectors, dismissing academics who criticize his policies and replacing them with pro-government figures.

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