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Why Erdogan needs to conquer Bogazici University

Historical Bogazici University has long been an ivory tower out of the control of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party.
Students demonstrate against the direct appointment Bogazici university's new rector by Turkish President, on January 4, 2021 in front of the University in Istanbul. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP) (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

On his first day in office as the rector of one of Turkey’s most prestigious universities, Melih Bulu received a literal cold shoulder. The faculty greeted their new boss by contemptuously turning their backs to the rectorate building — just as students of the same university had done four years ago. The target then was Bulu’s predecessor, Mehmed Ozkan, who had also been handpicked as the rector of prestigious Bogazici University by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. This time was worse as Ozkan had been a member of Bogazici faculty, but Bulu is an outsider whose academic credentials are tarnished with allegations of plagiarism.

As students from Bogazici and other universities continued protesting around the campus and online, Erdogan rallied to Bulu's defense. “The Board of Higher Education has provided me with nine names and I have selected Bulu based on his academic qualifications,” the president said on Friday. “I am certain that he will be very successful.”

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