La Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México en crisis desde la llegada de la rectora Esther Orozco
INNOVATIVE UNIVERSITY IN MEXICO CITY FIGHTS FOR SURVIVAL
The Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México (UACM) was founded in 2001. Among the outstanding features of the UACM are the lack of tuition or fees and the presence of non-lucrative majors (no business administration, sciences and humanities oriented toward communitarian problem-solving). But since a change of administration in 2010...
Educators, union members, activists, artists, and others:
Please read the following and, if you want to do something about this grave situation, sign the petition at the end.
John Hazard (professor at the UACM, former member of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and National Writers Union)
INNOVATIVE UNIVERSITY IN MEXICO CITY FIGHTS FOR SURVIVAL
The Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México (UACM) was founded in 2001 during the administration of then-mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, partly in response to the demand generated by an eleven-month student strike at the largest public university in the country, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). The UACM was the first public university founded in about 25 years in this city of 10 million people where hundreds of thousands of young people have no higher education opportunities. One of the principal demands of the strike at the national university was to rescind a decision to begin charging tuition. Thus, one of the organizing principals of the new UACM was that no fees would be charged for classes or for any other activities. Other features: no money-oriented majors (business administration, etc.), no admissions exam, and that, in theory, there would be more flexibility than in other Latin American universities and grades would be de-emphasized or non-existent. In the first two years, the overwhelming majority of in-coming students had been rejected by other public universities that screen applicants with tests. Most were the first people in their families to attend college; it is still unusual to find a student whose parents are college graduates. Three of the five campuses are located in peripherally located poor neighborhoods (in a former prison in one case). All professors receive the same pay. There are no department heads; there are liaisons who represent academic areas (called academies).
Paco Ignacio Taibo II, author of one of the most widely-acclaimed biographies of Che Guevara, recently donated the materials he used to research the book. At the ceremony, he denounced the authoritarian actions of rector Esther Orozco, detailed below.
While many progressive members of the university community have felt, almost since the beginning, that some of these ideals were not respected in daily practice (political science, for example, has become a haven for people who want to profit from local corruption, and test anxiety had become as bad as at any other school) the situation has taken on the portions of a caricature since a regime change in the spring of 2010, when the founding rector, Manuel Pérez Rocha, left and geneticist Esther Orozco was elected to take his place. (In a harbinger of what was to come, Orozco bought full-page newspaper ads though campaigning for the post of rector was prohibited by internal regulations.)
Pérez Rocha and other founders of the UACM committed the error that Deborah Meier has warned against in speaking of the origins of the Central Park East Secondary School in New York: Don’t assume that people understand and are prepared for innovation and self-governance. A lot of collegial work and mentoring will be necessary. Thus, when the attacks came, the community was not consolidated and prepared to defend itself.
Many Latin American universities have the word autónoma in their names because the concept of autonomy here refers to the right of public universities to govern themselves with no interference from local, state, or federal governments, whose only permitted participation is to provide funding. Many at the UACM, therefore, were appalled when Orozco, at her inauguration ceremony in May of 2010, passed the microphone to Marcelo Ebrard, mayor of Mexico City. Ebrard had upheld funds for the university during the previous months in what many perceived as an attempt to blackmail the community: elect Orozco and I’ll release the money. This suspicion was confirmed when, that day, he announced that the money would be forthcoming. But he labeled it as if it were a charitable donation from him, not public funds to which the university was entitled. When the money began to arrive, eight months later, it was for projects designated by him.
Ebrard, a sort of Rudolph Guiliani of the center-left, began to accumulate power in the city when he was named as police chief by López Obrador. One of his first moves was to bring Giuliani to visit as a highly-paid anti-crime consultant. López Obrador groomed Ebrard as his successor in spite of (or because of) the more populist image of the former and the more technocratic image of the latter. Ebrard has never concealed his desire to further technical education and to reduce the scope of critical, autonomous, humanities-oriented programs. This fall, López Obrador and Ebrard campaigned against each other to see which one, via survey, would be selected as the candidate of the ostensibly left-wing parties for the presidency. López Obrador won, but Orozco and three members of her family, all employees of the university, signed a publicly released letter in support of Ebrard. Before arriving at the UACM, Orozco was head of the city’s institute of science and technology (ICyT) and she has been accused of channeling funds from that institute toward family members (her daughter and daughter-in-law are artists and received such funding) and students and teachers at the UACM whom she wanted to influence through the awarding of grants and contracts.
The harassment of the new university administration against those who criticize these practices and the firings and other forms of workplace harassment that have become commonplace have led around 30 members of the university community to file complaints with the city human rights office.
• The dismissal without due process of workers, including professors, who have expressed their dissent publicly or who simply occupy positions that the rector wants to fill with her cronies.
• The conversion of the area of civil defense, previously a group of volunteers who worked in other areas of the university, into a bodyguard service and goon squad that films, yells at, and physically assaults dissident students for common protest activities including merely putting up posters.
• Refusal to recognize or negotiate with the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la UACM (SUTUACM), union that includes everyone from professors to cleaning workers, part of a network of embattled independent unions in Mexico. Many of the recently fired or threatened workers are part of the union leadership, including Alberto Benítez, Claudio Albertani and Eduardo Mosches.
• The apparent collusion of the rector with city council members to reform (illegally, given the university’s autonomy) the school’s charter to give her the right toher own re-election and more unilateral power in hiring. Orozco responded to protests by buying full-page newspaper ads in which she denounced everything that distinguishes the UACM from other universities as aberrations and said the university defrauds its students. The community responded with a petition drive that produced 3,500 signatures calling for her resignation or dismissal. This is not a majority of the approximately 12,000 students and workers, but a similar attempt on the part of her supporters (people in political science and genomic science, mostly) only yielded 80 names.
• For over a year, union dues have been withheld from workers’ pay but not deposited in the union’s account.
• Insults proferred by the rector herself and several of her allies via facebook. A disproportionate number of the targets of such insults have been foreign-born professors and editorial workers; Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Leon Trotsky, José Martí, D.H. Lawrence, Erich Fromm, Ivan Illich, Remedios Varo, Luis Buñuel, Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, Fidel Castro, and Ernesto (Che) Guevara are just a few of the one-time residents of or long-term visitors to Mexico who would not be welcome at the UACM under Esther Orozco.
What can you do to support the UACM?
1. Visit us. Organize informal exchanges with your educational institution or other organizations.
2. Sign the petition below. The original version was published in Spanish in the newspaper La Jornada on November 15 with the names of hundreds of Latin American intellectuals and activists. (Some of the names are reproduced below.)
3. Help us spread the word. Send this to your contacts, including organizations, newsletters, and sympathetic media.
Please indicate your name, city, state/province, country, and a variety of work, union, and political affiliations. Err on the side of excess and we will decide which affiliations to publish.
AGAINST WORKPLACE PERSECUTION AT THE UACM
We observe with sadness and worry that the office of the rector of the Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México (UACM) has chosen workplace harassment as a means of suppressing a conflict. To defend the educational and social project of this worthy institution, we find ourselves obliged to express our opposition to the wave of unjustified firings and to the campaign of persecution and criminalization that is taking place against those who oppose the rector. We exhort the authorities of the university to change its tactics in terms of the conflict that currently engulfs the university. To suppress differences is to suppress the essence of the spirit of universities.
--Margit Frenk, Adolfo Castañón, Margo Glantz, Cristina Barros, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Horacio Cerutti, Eli Bartra, Guillermo Almeyra, Octavio Rodríguez Araujo, General José Francisco Gallardo Rodríguez, Manuel Gil Antón, Carlos Aguirre Rojas, Gilberto López y Rivas, Luciano Concheiro, Silvia Molina, Hugo Aboites, Jeannine Kibalchich, Imanol Ordorika, Ángel Guerra Cabrera, Hermann Bellinghausen, Mercedes Olivera, Irene Selser, Massimo Modonesi, Elvira Conchero, Marta Ventura viuda de Selser, Gabriela Selser, María de la Paz Álvarez Scherer, Guiomar Rovira, Jaime Avilés, Paulina Latapí, John Mraz, Shula Erenberg, Deborah Dorontinsky Alperstein, Natalia Bengochea, Emilio Said, Eva Capece, Lorenza Manrique, Ruth Orozco Hernández, and hundreds of others.
¿QUÉ PASA EN LA UNIVERSIDAD AUTÓNOMA DE LA CIUDAD DE MÉXICO? La Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México, fundada en el 2001, está en crisis desde la llegada de la rectora Esther Orozco Orozco.
Frente a una ola de quejas en la Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal y en respuesta a las medidas precautorias solicitadas por la Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal ante diversas quejas interpuestas por miembros del Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la UACM y docenas de miembros de la comunidad universitaria, Orozco se vio obligada a instruir por escrito al personal académico y administrativo a abstenerse de realizar actos encaminados a socavar dicha libertad, debiendo actuar en la legalidad y el respeto al honor y la dignidad.
Pero la cosa sigue:
La Asamblea de la Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México (UACM), integrada por estudiantes, académicos y trabajadores administrativos de esa casa de estudios, llamó al Consejo Universitario (CU) a asumir su responsabilidad de ser el órgano que defina la revocación de la rectora, Esther Orozco Orozco, como marcan el estatuto de esa casa de estudios. Consideraron como táctica dilatoria la decisión de pedir la opinión de tres personas externas a la institución en torno a este tema y enviar el caso a la contraloría de la universidad, pues quien tiene que decidir es el consejo. Por este motivo y ante la negativa para exponer las pruebas que sustentan la solicitud de más de tres mil integrantes de la comunidad universitaria para que Orozco sea destituida, optaron por presentar a la opinión pública el expediente en el que se acredita las irregularidades en la gestión de la investigadora.
Al regresar de las vacaciones de verano, el CU descartó todo el expediente de cientos de páginas de alegaciones contra la rectora. La Asamblea difundió este decálogo como resumen:
¿Por qué debe irse la Dra. Orozco de la Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México?
1° Por el grave daño hecho a la UACM con sus repetidas declaraciones irresponsables.
2° Por violar la autonomía de la UACM al promover constantemente la injerencia del Gobierno del Distrito Federal y de la Asamblea Legislativa del Distrito Federal sobre nuestros asuntos internos.
3º Por calumnias, amenazas y difamaciones contra estudiantes, docentes y trabajadores disidentes.
4° Por violar los derechos humanos de dichos disidentes al filmarlos, fotografíarlos, hostigarlos e intimidarlos de manera inadmisible, algo que acredita la propia Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal.
5° Por perjudicar el futuro laboral de los estudiantes al afirmar que la UACM es un “fraude académico” y una “receta fallida”.
6° Por nepotismo y trafico de influencias. En la UACM ya laboraban la hermana de la rectora y la hija de la rectora. Ahora padecemos a la pareja sentimental de la hija de la rectora, la pareja sentimental del amigo de la hija de la rectora y otros allegados de su familia.
7° Por falta de transparencia, al no informar a la comunidad universitaria sobre el destino de 250 millones de pesos entregados por el GDF a la UACM; por desaparecer áreas de trabajo y revistas sin consultar al Consejo Universitario; por entregar un diagnóstico sobre la universidad a todas luces parcial e incompleto.
8° Por incumplir sistemáticamente los acuerdos del Consejo Universitario, máxima autoridad de nuestra casa de estudios, en flagrante violación al artículo 47 del Estatuto General Orgánico de la UACM.
9° Por violar permanentemente el Contrato Colectivo de Trabajo y retener las cuotas de los trabajadores con la complicidad de diversas instancias del GDF.
10° Por oponerse abiertamente a los principios éticos, pedagógicos y políticos expuestos en la Ley de la UACM, rechazar el diálogo e incumplir con sus atribuciones.
Más de tres mil universitarios uacemitas firmamos un documento para solicitar la renuncia o la revocación del cargo de la Dra. Orozco. Por dignidad, ella misma debería de haber renunciado ya. Solicitamos respetuosamente al Consejo Universitario asumir su responsabilidad en este momento difícil. La permanencia de Orozco en la UACM nos está llevando al caos y a la ingobernabilidad.
¡POR UNA EDUCACIÓN LIBRE, CIENTÍFICA, HUMANISTA Y DEMOCRÁTICA!
¡RENUNCIA O DESTITUCIÓN DE LA RECTORA OROZCO!
ASAMBLEA UNIVERSITARIA DE LA UACM
Más recientemente, se ha recrudecido la tendencia a la persecución laboral y al despido injustificado. Los casos de Alberto Benítez, Eduardo Mosches, Julia Cortés y John Hazard son unos de los más recientes.
FIRMEN LA CARTA PÚBLICA EN PROTESTA