In recent weeks, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has dedicated time during his morning lectures to criticize academic spaces such as the National Autonomous University of Mexico (ONE) and by extension to autonomous public universities. The value of these to protect the interests of the nation has been repeatedly questioned, “this is an indirect criticism of both university autonomy and academic freedoms,” says Dr. Rafael Bojalil Parra, researcher at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (HOW).

Although universities have a long tradition, they are now under real threat from unsustainable arguments that, although they may have some reason in terms of the problems to be solved, do not justify in any way the attacks they are receiving from the federal government and from specific organizations such as the National Council of Science and Technology ”, said Bojalil Parra.

These events have forced academic institutions to reflect and generate a dialogue with society to understand the importance of freedom that should prevail in these spaces. It is necessary to reinforce the work within higher education institutions in order to increase in the short term “our communication with society to let it know that we are fulfilling our social function to generate allies and not mere spectators,” said the Dr. Fernando del Río Haza, professor emeritus and academic of the Department of Physics of the Iztapalapa Unit, during the University Autonomy and Research Freedom Program, organized by the HOW.

In this regard, he explained that the function of the university is to serve society and take advantage of the knowledge that has historically been accumulated, “hence the importance of emphasizing academic freedom and safeguarding autonomy and if there are criticisms, let them come, but they are based in serious and argued information ”.

The problem is that in practice from the legislative and executive powers, the opposite happens, they say. For example, “initiatives are proposed to limit or outright cancel the autonomy of our public higher education institutions, but they are trivial, they lack analysis, data and information, and there is no rational reflection or motivation behind them on the part of the Executive ”, emphasizes the doctor of the River Haza.

The consequences in this sense is that while universities develop programs and research for the country’s development, scientific knowledge is poured into words and numbers “in black and white”. Faced with this scenario, productivity will drop and it will be difficult for groups of students to maintain themselves. research because they are very difficult to evaluate.

Dr. Romualdo López Zárate, researcher at the Sociology Department of the Azcapotzalco Unit, agreed with his colleague and added: “the next three years may hinder or stop the development of the universities, since apparently the president’s advisory group does not understand what what are these institutions or does not have the slightest idea of ​​their social function ”. He also denounced “half-measures” by the government, although in Tabasco he created the Chontalpa University, the so-called Benito Juárez do not meet the basic characteristics of what a higher education center should be, because they do not have collegiate bodies or freedom to propose study plans and programs; full-time teachers and job security; therefore, “this limited and naive vision” is worrying.

Rare weather in the CIDE

In this dilemma they also find themselves in institutions with a high academic historical reputation such as the Economic Research and Teaching Center (CIDE), who is not autonomous, who depends directly on the government, but who has carried out research for years with serious data and high-quality science, in accordance with what is supported by his peers, has even given the opportunity for the professionalization of journalism, a tool considered fundamental in every democratic nation that defends the right to information.

Today this work is in danger from a series of decisions that have been called by those involved as “arbitrary, with violations of internal regulations that complicate working conditions and academic freedom that could lead to institutional paralysis.” Dr. López Zárate said that “this perspective of the federal government regarding science and technology is worrying because it would seem that it has gone back to the 1990s in terms of what is allocated to these aspects of the Gross Domestic Product, but on all to this “disqualifying, homogenizing attitude that can do a lot of damage, so we will continue to defend academic freedom and university autonomy.”

President López Obrador seems to be unaware or unwilling to value the contribution these institutions have made to the development of the country, “but the truth is that it was not gratuitous that in the 2019 constitutional amendment he removed autonomy as a way of saying if they want to persist and having a larger budget should be at the service of what I think and not knowledge, “said López Zárate.

Right and commitment to raise your voice

Dr. Julieta Espinosa Meléndez, professor at the Interdisciplinary Department for University Development of the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos, assured that the research communities have every right and commitment to raise their voices and express themselves about the effects that this policy may have. general and the worrying consequences that it can entail.

In this sense, the case of CIDE has been in the spotlight in recent days, after the cancellation of the ruling commissions and the dismissal of the academic secretary, Catherine Andrews, coupled with the dismissal of Alejandro Madrazo Lajous, former director of the Central Regional Headquarters of the CIDE, mobilizations have been generated, both of teachers and their students. With public letters questioning the acting director, Jose Romero Tellaeche, with a request form where they not only request his resignation, but also the cancellation of his candidacy as director for the next period, in addition to a march in front of the facilities of the Conacyt last November 19.

This case has even reached institutions of higher education abroad that have expressed solidarity with the cause, for example, the Association of Mexican Students of Columbia (MEXSA) and the Mexican Association of the University of Chicago expressed their support to the student community and academic, they also requested respect for their internal rules and that this institution, which they call “fundamental training for Mexico”, not be dismantled.

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