The fight to save the Greek Studies program at La Trobe University has been taken up with vigour by the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV), who have given the Greek Studies program a deadline of this Monday to provide a solution to the problem of employing only one lecturer for the course.

Bill Papastergiadis, president, GOCMV, met with Professor Christopher Mackie, the head of the Greek studies department on Monday to discuss with them ways in which the community can offer assistance to work together to protect the future of the last Greek studies program at a university in Australia.

As it stands, the Greek studies program runs with only one lecturer, Maria Herodotou, after the contract of lecturer Despina Michael was not renewed for 2012.

The meeting, which took place at Monash University and was also attended by Dimitri Minas, president, Pan-Macedonian Association, was set up for the Greek community to ask what La Trobe University planned to do given that a university program may fail to survive with only one lecturer.

“It was important for me not to simply turn up and be critical of this, but rather to note our concerns and at the same time offer some solutions for them which might encourage them,” explained Mr Papastergiadis of the meeting.

“If they are not going to put Despina back into that position, at least replace her with someone else who will also offer subjects relating to the classics, history, culture, migrations, those things with a Greek reference in them.”

Mr Papastergiadis detailed ways in which the GOCMV can help the program, which included: access to promoting Greek studies to students in the GOCMV secondary schools; access to La Trobe University for people who are prepared to help fund and participate in these studies from the Greek community; provide support, as an industry partner, in the development of the ARC linkage grants; and assist in resources and access to archives.

“I then said these are the things we can do but I said we demand that you have a person who teaches in the areas that we described,” Mr Papastergiadis told Neos Kosmos.

In the meeting, he said Professor Mackie appeared to be committed in trying to find a suitable replacement for Despina Michael, and had someone in mind, and also seemed to “keen to engage with the Greek community to ensure [we] have a replacement or a new person teaching not only classics, but contemporary Greek related subjects”.

“We agreed that he would, by this Monday [13 February], give me an outline of the types of subjects he has in mind, when this person would be employed and what he needed from us,” said Mr Papastergiadis.

Following this, the Greek community would provide feedback on the content of the subjects and have another discussion on how this would be implemented.

Mr Papastergiadis added that although he applauds the university for the reintroduction of Ancient Greek studies, he said that there would be a gap left regarding the subject matter that Ms Michael taught and was keen to have that rectified and discussed.

He said Professor Mackie was looking for a suitable replacement for Ms Michael to be someone of “Greek background, with Greek language skills who is able to teach subjects referable to Greeks matters and also to broaden the scope of what used to be taught, for example it could be on Greek film, or current Greek political issues – in terms of what’s happening in Greece, and multiculturalism”.

Mr Papastergiadis added that all in all, it was a “very positive meeting” for the Greek community.