María Jesús Cañizares – 03.03.2020
An independence flag at the University of Barcelona (UB), an example of politicization denounced by a group of professors / CG
The group of Catalan professors ‘Universitaris per la Convivència’ (UpC) met this afternoon with the Secretary of Universities of the Generalidad Francesc Xavier Grau. Professors Ricardo García Manrique (University of Barcelona), Isabel Fernández Alonso (Autonomous University of Barcelona) and Ricardo Gómez Val (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) attended the meeting on behalf of the group.
Open letter to the Rectors of public universities in Catalonia: In defense
of ideological freedom
The undersigned, university professors
from different disciplines, have observed with amazement that the Senate of all
Catalan public universities have voted and approved this week almost identical
manifests in which they claim the right of self-determination and the freedom
of those who they call “political prisoners”. The text also condemns
“repression and police violence” in Catalonia.
Given this fact, which we consider of
extraordinary seriousness, in addition to showing our radical disagreement with
what we perceive as aberrant content, we want to remember:
1.- That the governing bodies of our universities are made up of professors, students and administration and service personnel, who have not been chosen in any way for their political ideas. Therefore, these persons lack moral legitimacy to rule on political issues on behalf of the people they represent.
2.- That the educational administrations, in this case the universities, do not have rights but competences. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right that corresponds exclusively to people, as various rulings of our Constitutional Court clearly indicate. The fact that an administration expresses itself on behalf of all its members implies an evident aggression against another fundamental right, ideological freedom, protected by article 16 of the Constitution.
3.- That, in addition, we consider incompatible with the mission of the
University to try to contribute to build in the public sphere a unique thought
on any subject, especially when it comes to matters that generate strong social
For all these reasons, we urge the Rectors to adopt the necessary measures
to withdraw these manifests that so damage the image of our universities and
are so damaging with the fundamental right to ideological freedom of the
Members of the Senates who really share what is stated in these manifests can subscribe them individually, as we do in this letter.
Finally, we put ourselves at the disposal of the Catalan universities to
contribute to a serene and rigorous debate on all the dimensions of the serious
conflict that exists in this community.
October 29, 2019
UpC has submitted to Grau a proposal for the reform of the Law of
Universities of Catalonia consisting of adding a section related to basic
principles (art. 4), aimed at guaranteeing the political neutrality of the
governing bodies of the universities and protecting ideological freedom for all
their members. It would be worded as follows: “All the governing bodies,
collegiate and personal, of public universities objectively serve the general
interests, in accordance with the principles of neutrality and effectiveness
that govern the activity of public administrations, and with full institutional
respect for the superior values of the legal system: freedom, justice, equality
and political pluralism”.
UpC promoted a reply, which had more than 1,200 signatures, to the nationalist manifesto approved by the cloisters of all public universities in Catalonia last fall, following the ruling of the Supreme Court that condemned various separatist leaders.
This group maintains that the governing bodies of the universities “lack the legitimacy to pronounce themselves on behalf of all their members on the political situation in Catalonia. This is because they have not been elected at all because of their ideological approaches to this issue”. UpC stresses that administrations “do not have freedom of expression, as this is a right that corresponds exclusively to people, and defends that universities should be forums for meeting between different sensibilities. Taking sides in such a controversial issue constitutes, according to their view, a deep irresponsibility that only contributes to further stressing society”.
Torra’s stand up
At the meeting, the representatives of UpC have conveyed to the Secretary of Universities their discomfort at the fact that President Quim Torra had received, on November 7, in the midst of the electoral campaign, a group of pro-independence members of the Senates who “unduly claimed the representation of the universities and handed him over, after calling the media, some manifestos that this group considers incompatible with a rigorous academic environment and respectful of diversity”.
Likewise, they have asked him to adopt the necessary measures to “eliminate the partisan symbols of common public spaces (particularly the squares of October 1 that exist on various campuses), so that the evaluation systems and procedures are not modified again with political criteria and, above all, to stop ideological attacks against constitutional students, as well as any vandalism such as sectarian graffiti, broken windows, occupation of banking entities, etc”.
UpC had requested this interview from Torra when he saw that Torra (like Torrent) had received various nationalist members of Senates. The objective was to convey to him the feelings of many other members of the Catalan university community who, regardless of their ideology, consider that universities should not be exploited by political power. The group regrets that the President of the Generalidad has not found time to meet with them, nor has found it the President of the Parliament, who has not even responded to their request. On the contrary, they thank the Secretary of Universities for his willingness to listen to their requests. Grau, despite not sharing other demands, has agreed with the UpC in rejecting any form of violence on campus”.
UpC, who will also request an interview with the new Minister of Universities, will hold, on March 25, an event at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia with which it aims to promote the debate on ideological freedom on Catalan campuses.