Students’ Victory: Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Solidarity

ITU Solidarity won a legal victory after an intense fight. The process and contents of the lawsuit have important determinations in terms of freedom of expression on campus.

Everything Started With A Teapot

ITU Solidarity initiated a boycott against the price policy of private businesses on campus last term (2019-2020). The boycott, which started due to the high prices, continued with the students bringing a teapot to the campus and establishing a student canteen that was maintained with solidarity. 

The teapot was seized by security guards affiliated with the Private Security Unit (ÖGB). The students reacted when a security guard attacked a student and squeezed the student’s throat. However, instead of pressing charges against the violent security guard, the rector’s office started a disciplinary investigation against 4 students.  A graduate student was prevented from entering the campus and 4 students who were investigated were suspended from the campus.

Protests Begin

January 5th, 2020- ITU Solidarity made a call in front of ITU Maslak Campus. They called on everyone who embraced the boycott and opposed the unlawfulness to solidarity by participating in the press release.

January 6th, 2020- A large group of students attended the reading of a  press release in front of the main door of İTÜ. The students made 3 demands: 1) Our friends’ right to education should not be prevented. 2) Legal action should be taken against the security guards. 3) Our boycott requests should be accepted.

January 7th- A decision for a stay of execution was made by the Administrative Court in the case of the 4 students who were prevented from entering the campus. Thus, the obstacle for students to enter the university was removed. In the decision, it was stated that “the application made will prevent the right to education because the students are in the exam period”.

However, on the same day, ITU Solidarity announced that a disciplinary investigation was opened against 17 students. Among the accusations against the students in the shared document were: “Protesting with applause, inviting students to participate in the boycott, calling for a protest against the security guard who has squeezed the student’s throat “.

January 13th- ITU Solidarity made a press release in front of the ITU main gate, demanding that the investigations be withdrawn and the boycott requests be accepted. After the press release, “Long live student solidarity, long live ITU Solidarity!” slogans were voiced. 

February 10thAs a result of the investigation conducted against 17 students, 7 students were suspended for a week, 3 students suspended for a month, 2 students suspended for 6 months and a student suspended for a year.

February 11th- The administrative court decided for a stay of execution regarding the disciplinary penalties given against the students.

“We were right, we won!”

March 10th- ITU Rectorate objected to the suspension of execution decision regarding disciplinary penalties. However, the court rejected the appeal. ITU Rector Mehmet Karaca closed the social media accounts of ITU Solidarity. Students urged the Rector’s Office to heed students’ demands instead of trying to punish them. 

October 1st- Istanbul 4th Administrative Court annulled the disciplinary penalties imposed by the ITU administration against the students. The decision emphasized freedom of expression in particular: “ In the concrete case; there is no doubt that the plaintiff’s participation in the protest held in the form of “applauding, knocking on walls, whistling and making various kinds of noise” to protest the expensive prices of private businesses within the university is an integral part of freedom of expression.”

You can find our article on Freedom of Expression on Campus here.