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Home » Content » Isabel Fernández: “It is sad to see Catalan universities kneeling before power”
The UAB professor of Communication and member of the Forum of Professors and Universitaris per la Convivència denounces the nationalist "instrumentalization and indoctrination" in higher education

Ricard López 09/08/2020

Isabel Fernández Alonso is an associate professor of Communication at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and one of the hundreds of teachers who this week signed a letter, sent to the rector Margarita Arboix, to denounce and request measures to prevent cases such as the one just known of alleged indoctrination and “ideological harassment” by an independent professor of Public International Law of a constitutionalist student of the “S’Ha Acabat” student association.

As a professor at this university for a decade, and a member of the constitutionalist associations Foro de Profesores, Universitaris per la Convivència -promoting the letter- and Impulso Ciudadano, Fernández Alonso has seen from the front line the effects of the procés in the university and has spent years denouncing the instrumentalization by nationalism of higher education centers in Catalonia. In this interview with Crónica Global she explains it to us.

– Are these types of situations, contrary to ideological freedom and the right to education of students, as they denounce in the letter, are isolated cases, or do you know that similar ones have occurred in recent years in Catalonia?

Unfortunately it is not an isolated case. Just teaching with a yellow bow on the lapel puts obvious pressure on many students. Also for the independentists. Some of them, aware of my position on this issue, have acknowledged that they do not consider it appropriate, nor do they share that classrooms are used to launch political slogans no matter how much they sympathize with its content. The problem is that students are in a position of inferiority and fear reprisals that may result from a complaint.

– And this happens more in some universities than in others? At the University of Barcelona (UB), for example, a couple of years ago a group of radicals came to boycott an act on Miguel de Cervantes organized by the Catalan Civil Society (SCC) …

The nationalist instrumentalization of the universities is something general. The Plaza del 1 de Octubre in the Jaume I Building of the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) [dedicated to the date of the illegal referendum of secession of 2017] comes to mind, the great star flag of the cloister of the Rector’s Office of the University of Lleida (UdL) or the yellow ribbon that presides over the home page of the website of the University of Girona (UdG). If this is seen with the naked eye, it is inevitable to wonder what will happen inside the classrooms.

A clear evidence that it is a general problem was the approval by all the cloisters of the Catalan public universities of an obscene manifesto, last fall, following the sentence of the procés. It was a manifesto that called into question our democratic system and that was later delivered to Quim Torra and Roger Torrent (I suppose because of the battles between the government partners) in two public events. On that occasion, Universitaris per la Convivència and Foro de Profesores sent a letter to the rectors, signed by more than 1,000 teachers, demanding respect for the ideological freedom of the members of the university community. It should be noted that the cloistered are not elected for their political ideas, so they lack the legitimacy to position themselves politically on behalf of all. It produces an enormous sadness to see our universities kneeling before power, when they should be discussion forums in which a plurality of ideas flow.

– Has the Catalan university taken sides in favor of the procés?

Blatantly. Before, I spoke of the manifestos that followed the Supreme Court’s ruling [to the leaders of the procés], but another bloody case was, for example, the “country strike” of October 3, 2017. I remember that I received an email from my rector telling me that the UAB was suspending classes. Those of the “right to decide” deciding for all … Another shameful fact was the modifications of the evaluation systems last fall under pressure from separatist students.

All of this is in line with the forecasts of Jordi Pujol’s famous 2000 Program, which literally envisaged “empowering personalities of nationalist ideology in the governing bodies” of the then three Catalan universities, as well as promoting nationalist student associations.

– Is the Catalan university used by the current heads of the Generalitat or the independence movement and its associations?

Obviously there are professors, also in government bodies, who are not nationalists or who, being so, do not share the obvious pressures of the Government but, given the tremendous spiral of silence that reigns in our public sphere (which translates into a clear fear of isolation for disagreeing) and the economic suffocation of the campuses, it is difficult for them to raise their voices.

However, I want to underline the importance of the existence of a group such as Universitaris per la Convivència, which brings together some 200 teachers and researchers from all Catalan universities and which, to cite one of its most recent initiatives, on March 3 presented to the Secretary of Universities of the Generalitat a proposal for legal reform to put an end to the political instrumentalization of campuses.

– Is there indoctrination in Catalonia?

Absolutely. To those who doubt it, I strongly recommend reading the more than 300 pages full of evidence that are collected in the report “Nationalist Instrumentalization of the Education System in Catalonia: the case of October 1”, a document prepared by the Assembly by a Bilingual School of Catalonia (AEB) and the Catalan Civil Society Teaching Group (SCC), in which I worked at the time. No one has replicated it. The independence movement went to far and did not expect the reactions that would generate placing minors in the focus of the illegal referendum.

– What do you mean?

They turned the schools into voting centers. Many parents (also teachers and professors) denounced the political harangues in the classrooms and on the playgrounds after October 1. These can be observed in the schools’ own social networks, often used by the most militant activist teachers.


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