Europe's worst university system -- and that's saying a lot -- has done it again. Ten senior academics at Panteion University in Athens have stolen almost eight million dollars in state funds over the last five years or so. They bought luxury goods with the money, which was intended to support academic programs at Panteion.
What's striking about the coverage from Greece is that the harshness of the verdicts, rather than the enormity of the crime, has shocked people.
Well, of course faculty and staff embezzle state university funds, nothing new there... But actually to be caught... and sentenced!
Aside from the shabby incompetence of the Greek university system generally, the thieves had going for them the fact that they ran the place: Among the convicted were Panteion's rector, vice-rector, and chief accountant.
With his cut, the accountant bought a Ferrari.
Greece's intrepid education minister has tried and tried and tried to bring a bit of intellectual respectability to her country's pathetic higher education establishment. She attempted to introduce competition in the form of private universities. But while it's apparently been okay for years to steal large sums from public universities, it remains illegal to open private ones. Her efforts - and the efforts of the legislature - in the direction of university reform produced, a few months ago, riots so violent that the government backed down. Now all the world hears about Greek universities -- Greek universities! Once the glory of the civilized world! -- is police blotter stuff.
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