This Bloomberg story about campus life in the new, more austere Greece makes you wonder about the future of the Occupy Wall Street protests in the U.S. and about higher education in places like California where budget cuts will continue to be felt for years to come.
In the universities of Athens, the city where Plato taught and Cicero studied, campuses are covered in anarchist graffiti, stray dogs run through buildings and students take lessons in Swedish with the aim of emigrating.
Higher education in Greece, as in much of Europe, has been battered by the recession and austerity measures. Budget cuts of 23 percent since 2009 mean buildings aren’t heated in the winter, schools have slashed faculty salaries and newly hired professors can wait more than a year to be appointed.
Students say it’s hard to be hopeful with youth unemployment surpassing 50 percent and protesters seizing university buildings.
“People are pessimistic and sad,” said Konstantinos Markou, a 19-year-old law student, speaking in a lobby at the University of Athens, where dogs fought nearby and students say drug dealers and users congregate. “The sadness is all around the air.”
As universities in Greece reduce salaries and slow hiring, young academics are rethinking their careers there, said Leonidas Karakatsanis, 39, who received his Ph.D. in political science last year from the University of Essex in England and has a research fellowship at Panteion University in Athens.
“My initial plan was to spend some years abroad and return back to Greece,” Karakatsanis said. “Now it seems like it’s impossible to return to Greece. I’m starting to imagine myself living abroad for the next 15 to 20 years.”
While no one is expecting any U.S. states to follow the path of Greece, there are already some important parallels, namely, how policy makers continue to pass on a disproportionate share of the pain to the younger generation who have little political power and how people are adjusting to recent changes by relocating within the U.S.