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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 09 June 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 JUNE 2018 3 NEWS appointments," Dr Herodotou told Neos Kosmos. The hiring freeze served the university's strategy – it is obvious now that there was a strategy – to minimise its financial commitment to the program. Instead of replacing Dr Herodotou, a move that would affirm their commitment to the continuation of Modern Greek studies at La Trobe, they chose to employ two lecturers on a casual basis, with Dr Herodotou kept on as a part-timer assigned administrative duties. Since the beginning of the 2017 academic year, La Trobe has not spent a penny on the Modern Greek program, while at the same time actually making money from it. Apart from the federal funding it received, the program generated additional income from the interest paid on the Vasilogiannis bequest, and fees paid by Melbourne University for its students pursuing cross-institutional studies in Modern Greek at La Trobe’s Bundoora campus. It is estimated that the additional income was about $70,000 – more than enough to cover the salaries of the two casual academics. During a meeting with members of the Greek Community of Melbourne board last October, the then head of the College of the Arts, Professor Anthony McGrew chose his words very carefully, making no commitments about reinstating Dr Herodotou's position. The only commitment he made was to ensure the program would continue. In the meantime, Dr Herodotou approached the Head of the Language and Linguistics Department, Professor James Walker, several times to inquire about the the full-time position but she was not provided with any clear answers. The delay to appoint a successor last year worried her. "I expressed my concern about the delays in appointing a new program coordinator. The delays were harmful to the program. I told them," she says. Fast forward to November 2017 when Neos Kosmos asked La Trobe about its intentions to fill Dr Herodotou's position. Our requests for information went unanswered, and according to sources, the university branded our efforts as an "unnecessary and unhelpful interference". Within days Dr Herodotou's fears that the program would be eroded were confirmed. There was not going to be a full-time staff member for the program and instead the position was downgraded to part-time (0.6 days a week). "I expressed my concern immediately that the position was reduced to 0.6; a fixed term appointment entails a lot of restrictions and is an impediment to the development of the program," says Dr Herodotou, who still thought that the university was going to at least fund the position from its coffers. But the situation got worse. The position was now to be fully funded externally from the maturity of the Vasilogiannis bequest. "That is contrary to what was previously discussed," says Dr Herodotou, who, like the many in the community, feels misled by the university. She comments on the best efforts of Professor Walker but won't comment on his superiors, pointing to other recent developments which stand to prove that La Trobe can no longer be bothered with the Modern Greek program and appears to be doing all in is power to weaken it. Among them is the authorities' decision to withdraw the Greek Diaspora subject offered over summer. Despite 15 students enrolling in the subject in 2016, the university closed its doors on them without any explanation, either to the students or to Dr Herodotou. The subject didn't run last summer either. "I realised that they were not offering it and I raised my concerns. They opened it to enrolments just a day before the deadline to enrol was expiring," recalls Dr Herodotou, adding that "the decision by the school not to allow subjects to be offered like this one for two consecutive years had a negative effect on the overall enrolments in the program". In the meantime, the de- velopment of new subjects that might help raise student numbers is becoming an impossible task; Dr Herodotou points out that "certain policies prevent the program from offering new and additional subjects to the current program". PART-TIME PROGRAM CORDINATION: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM La Trobe maintains that its intentions are to keep the program alive. We asked it how it would be possible for it to not only stay alive, but be revived and become more attractive to future students when all its actions are condemning it to a slow death. Professor Walker maintains the long-term plan is to revive the program, but the elephant in the room – how exactly a part-time coordinator can achieve this – is expertly avoided. "Enrolments in Greek Studies have declined drastically over the years, to the point where the program is in danger of becoming unsustainable. In the current funding environment the program cannot be continued in its current form. The part-time, fixed-term appointment gives us a couple of years to re-imagine the Greek Studies program. The new Head of School and I are committed to working with the newly appointed staff member and with members of the Greek Community of Melbourne to put Greek Studies at La Trobe on this sustainable path. We have already started to make changes to the curriculum in 2019 that we hope will prove attractive to students in Greek Studies and beyond". APATHY FROM THE GREEK COMMUNITY - THE OTHER ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM In the past, the Greek community has supported the Modern Greek Studies program through a number of initiatives with well-off members investing not only time, but also a considerable amount of money to enhance it. The decisions and lack of transparency on La Trobe's behalf created a sizable deficit of trust between the community and the university, resulting in an apathetic response from the community. It should be noted that there is an effort being made by the GOCMV to initiate a dialogue with La Trobe. But is that enough? One thing is certain. It was not enough to save the fulltime coordinator role. As a community, in recent years we have shied away from asking ourselves some fundamental questions about the Modern Greek program: do we want a Modern Greek Studies program to be part of Melbourne's academic landscape? If we do, what can be done to make this program sustainable? And last but not least, who will lead the effort on behalf of the community? There's no denying the Greek community has accumulated substantial wealth during its limited presence in Australia, and with numerous associations leaving behind valuable assets, one thing is certain; the means to maintain a Modern Greek university program are there. Coupled with the human capital, the many exceptional people who have the knowledge and have earned the respect of the Australian community, there are certainly leaders to head the effort. The question is, will words translate into action? It's yet to be seen. Britain’s Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Mikakos urges Hellenes to support Corbyn for return of Parthenon Marbles British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to assist with the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece if elected PM has attracted attention worldwide Victorian Minister for Youth Affairs Jenny Mikakos MP is urging Greeks throughout the diaspora, particularly those living in Britain, to throw their support behind British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's push for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. The British opposition leader made headlines last weekend after he vowed to begin the process for the return of the precious marbles to Greece if elected prime minister. "The Parthenon sculptures belong to Greece," Mr Corbyn told Ta Nea's London correspondent Ioannis Andritsopoulos. "They were made in Greece and have been there for many centuries until Lord Elgin took them. "As with everything stolen or removed from a country that was in the possession or colony – including objects looted from other countries in the past – we should also begin constructive talks with the Greek government on the return of the sculptures." The interview has been shared by almost all British media outlets, attracting both positive and negative feedback. While many people were in favour of the return of the marbles to Greece, arguing that they rightfully belong there, others claimed that the politician has no jurisdiction over the antiquities currently residing in the British Museum. While Mr Corbyn has been following the campaign for some time, having spoken in parliament in 2014 on the matter, what has yet to be picked up by Australian mainstream media is that the commitment was in part influenced by a figure closer to home. Brought to Neos Kosmos' attention by Ms Mikakos, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had sent a letter to Mr Corbyn ahead of his visit to Athens last December, on behalf of the Greek community in Victoria, urging the opposition leader to make a formal commitment to the cause. "The Parthenon Marbles are an integral part of Greece's cultural heritage, and therefore are very important to the large and vibrant Greek community that reside here in the state of Victoria," wrote Mr Andrews to Mr Corbyn in a letter obtained by Neos Kosmos. He went on to say that it would be a good opportunity to "right a historical wrong" and would be a significant "gesture of goodwill" to Greeks around the world. "In the past, you have made personal remarks calling for the return of the marbles to Greece and I commend you for this. I write this letter to ask that you seek to formalise this position into the Labour Party's platform. As such, should you be elected to government, the process of returning the marbles could begin." Dating back to the fifth century BCE, the return of the Parthenon Marbles has long been a subject of contention, having been removed from the Parthenon temple in Athens by the seventh Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce in the early 1800s with the agreement of the Ottomans.
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