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Written presentation to the Academic Council of the USACh, in extraordinary session of 06/10/2021 by Bruno Jerardino Wiesenborn, in his capacity as elected representative of Professors by Class Hours before the CTEO – USACh. The intervention was restricted to 10 minutes, therefore, this text structures with more context what was said in an improvised way in that session, without altering the substance of what was said.
The university is the quintessential sphere which, among other things, reflects on the country, the world around it and its own work. This is why we will briefly reflect on the university cultural context in which the process of modifying the Organic Statute (EO) was established and its subsequent result. We conclude by making a proposal to correct the “mistakes” that the authority has made.
We would like to bring to hand the words of Humberto Maturana (1), neurobiologist, National Science Prize 1994 and honorary doctor of our university:
“… children [youth] are not the future of humanity or of the country, we are the adults, because children [and young people] are going to be adults in turn, depending on the adults they live with”.
Consequently, it is not the same how we adults behave among ourselves and with our children and young people. Moreover, in the same interview, she adds that (2):
“… deep down children [youth] want adults to respect and trust, and that requires adults to be respectable, and for them to be respectable they have to respect themselves”.
Indeed, it is our duty to teach by example in a framework of mutual respect. This consistent behaviour is the baseline for the development of critical citizens and professionals who will build a better country and a better world.
It is no news to anyone that we are in a historical moment of institutional destructuring and, in this sense, the university is no exception.
In fact, at the USACh we have research professors who make interesting political-social analyses, very critical of the inequalities in our country, of the motivations for the revolt of 18 October 2019, of discrimination against migrants, of racism, and they also produce critical analyses of the treatment of indigenous peoples and excluded minorities.
However, the colleagues are “blind” to the discrimination and job insecurity that occur in our university. They are defenders of the constituent process, but the same attitude does not exist towards our administrative, academic and academic colleagues. It would seem that, under this rationality, the destructuring and generalised crisis that we face as a society is outside the limits of the University of Santiago.
Regarding this type of rationality, the right wing and the conservative world are in the habit of always talking about what happens outside Chile where, according to them, there is no doubt that Human Rights are being violated. However, when it comes to Chile, to the eye damage and the crimes committed during the uprising, they at best relativise everything, ascribing personal responsibility or else they remain silent. This rationality corresponds to a mentality that does not want to lose what it has, and the discursive context they give themselves makes it possible for things to be presented in the most comfortable way for them, namely to preserve their privileges.
We maintain that this is what is happening in our university, because of this kind of mental form that entails a “willful blindness” and filters out everything that refers to the practices of authoritarianism and job insecurity that we experience in the university.
Discrimination, in our case, against professors for hours of classes (PHC) ranges from not being considered in the definition of the teaching protocol, through the delay in the payment of honorary contracts (pending to date), to the lack of response to the letters we send to the authorities as representatives of staff associations (law 19.296, article 25).
Regarding the process of modification of the EO, according to law 21.094, we maintain that it is flawed. According to the current DFL 149, the Academic Council (CA) is a consultative and non-regulatory body. In effect, the CA modified the 142 voting proposals systematised by the CTEO which, unanimously, as a tri-estamental committee, evacuated as options to be plebiscited. The CA, as a consultative body, had the function of validating the proposal of votes emanating from the CTEO, according to exempt 8330 of 26-12-2018 (article 3, penultimate paragraph). However, at the prerogative of the rector, he was granted powers in a spurious manner, which allowed the proposal made by the CTEO to be reduced to 44 voting options drafted by the CA.
For us, this is equivalent to the Constitutional Convention drafting a text for a new Constitution and then arbitrarily taking it from the Constitutional Court and making modifications to establish the definitive text to be plebiscited. Not only is this arbitrary, authoritarian and anti-democratic, but a body that is subject to structural modification cannot make the adjustments it deems appropriate, given that it is precisely this institutionality that is subject to modification that is being questioned. It is clear that there is a conflict of interest.
Returning to discrimination against PHCs, in figures. There are more than 2,300 of us PHCs and we teach more than 70% of undergraduate classes; however, for the plebiscite we were 1,912 on the electoral roll where the weighted vote of the PHCs was 3% (day professors have a weighted vote of 62%). In addition, a minimum quorum was demanded of all the different groups, but at the last minute, the rector removed the quorum requirement for the PHCs. What was the reason for this discretion?
Let’s see, in the 1st round 14.68% of the entire university community participated and, in the 2nd, round 4.87%, which is clearly a very low participation.
The 245 PHCs who voted in the 1st round weighed (3% weighted) 7.35 votes. If the quorum requirement set out in the electoral regulations (40%) had been applied, these same votes would have “weighed” 0.96 votes, i.e., less than 1 vote to be counted. The 128 votes of the 128 PHCs who voted in the second round weighed 3.84. If the quorum requirement had been applied, in the 2nd round, those same votes would have “weighed” 0.50 votes, i.e., half a vote to be counted.
If that is not discrimination, what is?
The question then becomes: what is this type of criteria intended to preserve by weighting the votes in this way? This question is valid for any action that is or has been taken at the university. Indeed, if we want to maintain high academic standards, it is hard to understand why five colleagues at the FAE were dismissed and not rehired, even though four of them won their cases in the Supreme Court and one in the Comptroller General’s Office. We will mention two of the five cases: Manuel Llorca, an academic of excellence, with internationally recognised Fondecyt projects, was not reinstated. Serafima Chirkova, the only female academic in the Department of Economics, the academic with the most publications in the Department, was not reinstated. What is clear is that this is a decision that entails a political and not an academic criterion, since if academic excellence is to be preserved, this is not the way, nor the criterion, nor the actions to preserve it.
We ask again: what do you want to preserve, then, with this type of action?
If we make a mistake, the answer is not to ask God to forgive us, the answer is precisely to take action to repair that mistake. There is no doubt that this is the best teaching we can give, teaching future professionals by example and correcting the mistakes made in a timely manner.
The development of scientific knowledge (in the broad sense of the word) requires a critical eye and, where appropriate, making mistakes evident and visible. Science and the different forms of knowledge cannot advance on the basis of errors and false hypotheses. In our opinion, it has become naturalised in our university to avoid talking about the “mistakes” that are made within our university. How important it is to have a multidisciplinary education that recognises other forms of knowledge, such as literature! Indeed, as the children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen, published in 1837, teaches us, where the lie is only exposed when a child bravely cries out “But the King is naked!
Returning to the validation criteria used by the CA, which mutilated the proposal of 142 votes originally presented by the CTEO, it is worth mentioning one example among the many discretionalities we observed: why did the CA decide to pass directly to the EO a position of exclusive confidence of the rector, such as that of Secretary General, which is not contemplated in the law 21.094? Why was the vote proposed by the CTEO, which included 4 alternatives, where one of the alternatives was the possibility of it being a position of confidence, discarded?
Legitimately we ask again: what do they want to preserve with this kind of decisions that do not respect the options proposed by the university community?
If there is a will to repair the mistakes made and, furthermore, we all wish to live together in mutual respect, preserving democratic practice and participation as a guideline, the actions of reparation should consider:
- Roll back the EO modification process to the time when the CTEO proposed 142 votes.
- Give a period of one month to the entire university community to collect new proposals that give rise to voting options, atingentes to the observations made by the Undersecretary of Education in Ord.: 06/7873 of 03 September 2021.
- Correct, the 142 votes proposed by the CTEO, if necessary, the wording incorporating inclusive language.
- Request the validation (not modification) of the voting options proposed by the AC according to exempt 8330 of 26-12-2018 (article 3, penultimate paragraph), namely: “…shall be submitted to the Academic Council by the CTEO, for validation and subsequent vote.”
- Call for a public and participatory debate where members of the university community have the possibility to argue why it is convenient to support a certain option in each vote.
- Hold a new plebiscite that does not discriminate between full-time and part-time lecturers.
The result of the plebiscite should be drafted by the CTEO itself, as indicated in article 5 of exempt 8329 of 26-12-2018.
We have a long 10 months to carry out this 7-step planning in order to guarantee a public and genuinely participatory process.
- (1) 2nd paragraph of interview published: 4 November 2004; Cooperativa.cl (see here). The text in brackets has been added to extend the sentence to include young people.
- (2) Idem, 6th paragraph of the interview.