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'Un effort encore!!!'

by Richard Meckien - published Nov 22, 2013 10:45 AM - - last modified Apr 03, 2014 03:23 PM
Rights: Carlos Malferrari (translator)

Carlos Guilherme Mota, the first director of the IEA, expresses his outrage at the incident and sympathizes with the Director and staff of the IEA.

Carlos Guilherme Mota - PerfilDear Director Professor Martin Grossmann,

Upon my return from abroad, I came across the overall picture described in your message and those of colleagues, in which they manifest their vehement and well-founded concerns about the direction the University of São Paulo is taking.

I must express, especially because I was the first director of our IEA (“an independent, open but never neutral space”), my deepest outrage at what happened. Depredation of government property under our responsibility, disregard for our history and our public presence as an innovative and democratic institution, vilification of the very concept of UNIVERSITY (even if it needs indeed to be re-conceptualized, reformed and updated), resort to violence, obstruction of our free movement in a place of WORK and RESEARCH – everything leads to the idea that we are facing a CRISIS more serious than we imagined or suggested by the press and various manifestos. We must strive to understand it.

Say the crisis, from a social, ideological, political and properly cultural standpoint has been dragging on for several years; it would be trite to say that it is a “reflection” of what is happening in our country. Say the gangrene that has been killing our incipient “civil society” is now befouling the central agencies of our University of São Paulo, forcing her to take notice of what is going on in classrooms and in the various colleges, which should educate new professionals (especially teachers, urban planners, economists, managers, mathematicians etc. etc.) for the public good. Say the present-day “Jacobins” have nothing in common with those of the French Convention of 1793, and that a political, cultural and mental underclass has engulfed the country, from top to bottom. Say university leaders (in faculty meetings, departments etc.) should have foreseen and addressed beforehand the problems that are now rearing their head. The situation is indeed complex and is not limited to the issue of having or not direct elections for President! As one of the members of the “extended” Board wrote, referring to the agents of vandalism, “What sort of education did they receive at home? At school? In their social environment? What will be the present and future of our country with elites such as these?” Perhaps the same as those drivers of bunker-like cars with tinted glass that circulate at high speed in our wealthier neighborhoods. The lowdown is that the crux of the problem may be higher up…

Today, dear Professor Grossmann, even our IEA was hit. This is unprecedented and calls for a vigorous public response. I remember a general strike during Goldemberg’s mandate, when the leaders were able to negotiate and respect the activities of the Institute, the work of this former director and of the President, and even the conference held at the meeting room of the University Council (delivered by Christopher Hill, the leading English historian), for instance.

I’m still not clear as to what we should do, or what I might suggest. But I do know that the IEA Board has highly qualified, responsible and firm members – not to mention the “extended Board” and what we used to call the “invisible Senate,” which bring together adding former Board members, former directors, former visitors and supporters from the scientific and cultural milieu. In short, a diverse, but highly critical and active community. As it has always done, the IEA should continue to function as a space for dialogue and negotiation, leveraging its acknowledged experience in situations of impasse such as the present one.

A possibly viable formula might be to establish a Forum, led with a firm hand by Professors Emeriti or luminaries working above and beyond interests, groups, political slates, corporations, moods and parties. I’m thinking of names like former President Goldemberg, Alfredo Bosi, William Saad Hossne (former scientific director at FAPESP and former president of UFSCar, elected by direct vote in the early 1980s), professor and jurist Dalmo de Abreu Dallari, Jacques Marcovitch (former director of the IEA and former President of the University of São Paulo, who had an intense experience during his mandate), and the emeritus and serene professor Adib Jatene.

Finally, I want to express my solidarity to you personally and to the entire staff of our Institute, and also to our Board of Directors. The IEA, since its inception, has always known how to face up to strong challenges, and it was over the course of many successive struggles that it acquired its incontestable credibility. “Un effort encore!!!”

“Salut et Fraternité!!!”

Carlos Guilherme Mota


PS. In this age of “irresponsible” pragmatism, stultifying technocracy and stifling bureaucracy, it might be a good time to revisit the theses of the outstanding educator Anísio Teixeira on “University with Cultural Purposes” – if only for us to try to discern at what point in its historical journey the University lost its way.