Patronage, the external enemy and the universities

"If we want to avoid the flourishing of the technocratic conception, which denatures the mission of the university, we must overcome the resistance of conservative forces, who postulate explicitly or implicitly that our university does not require transformations or that these have already been done, or that all its ills come from external factors; they are the defenders of the endogamous university, increasingly isolated from its environment ... "

The previous paragraph was written in 1997 by Professor Alberto Lovera in the article "The university we have and the university we want: a look from the UCV", in the journal Agenda Académica, a publication of the Central University of Venezuela.

Lovera's words have as a prelude a sample of vices and failures that affect the UCV and are present in the rest of the country's universities, such as: “… absence of an evaluation climate, little reward for student, teacher and administrative; slowness to respond to changes in the different fields of knowledge, be it transforming the curricula, or undertaking research in key areas ”.

He adds the “heavy running of his administration and government; dominance of clientelism in the establishment and implementation of the rules of internal functioning, generalized socio-economic supports that should be reserved only for that part of the community that requires it; frequent substitution of the requirement in academic or administrative work for permissiveness and even complicity in the face of poor performance, and therefore, the absence of sanctions against those who do not comply; little stimulus to innovation and a conservative environment in the face of changes; quality and equity problems in the way we operate ”.

In his article, the professor dismantles myths deeply rooted in universities. “One of them is to suppose that all universities are the same, when we have evidence of the enormous distances between one and the other. There is also no homogeneity within the same UCV. Universities coexist with faculties, schools, institutes, departments, teaching and research personnel, students, employees and workers with totally different performances. The conclusion is that all institutions cannot be treated as if they were homogeneous masses ”, he points out.

Another myth dismantled by Lovera is to maintain that the interests of the university are homogeneous and that is why they speak of “the defense of the university”, as opposed to “the enemies of the university”.

“From which university, that of academic excellence, that of those who develop high-level research, that of innovation, or the permissive one with the existence of professors who do not fulfill their dedication, eternal students, or the one that produces an environment conservative and refractory to changes? What we have today is a meeting of interests that each person interprets as "the university."

The professor explains the existence of three conceptions of the university and takes the side of the defender of its core functions, but capable of reconciling quality, equity, efficiency, and scientific and social relevance. "It is the one that we postulate as desirable the heterogeneous and still disjointed forces of change." He emphasizes, in this article written in 1997, that the "University we want must be a strategic piece for a new national project capable of guiding the construction of an economically and socially solid Venezuela."

  • For this potential to be fully developed, our university and the entire higher education subsystem must undertake profound transformations, generating knowledge and training professionals in tune with science, technology, culture, providing answers to national problems, which requires research agendas and study plans that can respond to this dynamism, avoiding the pachyderm speed that currently dominates, which generates changes that take place when they are obsolete.

“The university that we want must be an institution in which democracy and meritocracy prevail at the same time, as the Rector Francisco De Venanzi (1986) pointed out. In addition to perfecting the participatory democracy system, inherent to university life, it is necessary to implement a meritocratic system at all levels. It must put an end to the spaces of divided and corporate interests ”.   

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