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Elias Castillo says:

"UNAM has certainly had its share of disturbances, i.e. the student takeover last year. However, that was the only major university in Mexico with a disturbance of that magnitude. The rest of the universities were rather peaceful. What is going on, particularly in the public universities, is that rectors (campus presidents) at many schools are trying to push reforms requiring that students take general education requirement courses to avoid graduating technocrats who, in the past, have displayed a lack of critical thinking. The idea, as in the U.S., is to imbue university students with a sense of the arts, sciences, and history, to thus graduate students that are truly educated in a sense of worldliness and sophistication. Students in most campuses study only their major and nothing else. They graduate without any sense of the arts, sciences, history or languages. This, Mexican academics have realized, is not good for the nation as demonstrated by disastrous decisions made by PRiistas without consideration of their impact in related fields, especially in economics. These decisions, during the past presidential elections led to cries to oust "los technocratas." Students are vehemently opposed to this, obviously.

There are also rabid interschool rivalries that break out in bloody riots, particularly, as one example, between the Polytechnica and UNAM students in DF. They, prior to an annual American football game between both campuses, have seized public buses, blocked traffic and, in general acted like hooligans. The general public is angered by this behavior Up to now, the DF police has not interfered, but it seems that the new DF mayor López Obrador is not going to tolerate this behavior. He has decreed that demonstrators will no longer be able to block major city thoroughfares, something that students from both campuses have gleefully done in the past during these outbursts. The mayor's manifesto, however, does provide for alternate routes for demonstrators to avoid the major traffic jams caused by such actions that virtually paralyze the city.

Occasionally, fist fights break out on campuses between groups vying for election of a new rector. Many public university presidents in Mexico are elected to their positions for, I believe, a term of four years. This, virtually every Mexican academic agrees, is not a good way to run universities. Additionally, the rivalry that is created can be vicious during the campaign period for a new rector. In Chihuahua, for example, the UACH (Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua) once elected a new president who was a surgeon. His practice prevented him from being on campus full time. He only showed up about two or three days a week to run a complex campus of about 10,000 students. It's one of the reasons most Mexican public universities, UNAM especially and even some private universities suffer from such a poor quality of education.

After the 1968 Massacre of Tlatelolco, students organizations, of any type, were strictly prohibited to prevent students from forming large protest groups. However, this is an asinine law. It's expected this will go by the wayside during this new Fox administration. I believe some private universities are ignoring this rule, especially in the formation of scholarly student groups. In general, as far as their being breeding grounds for terrorism, things actually are rather peaceful, for the present at least, on Mexican campuses. Chile, of course, and the Central American nations probably have different situations."

My comment: Whereas the factors listed above play a role, the trouble comes from a group of students determined to destabilize the university, probably as part of a wider revolutionary plan. On the anniversary of the riot at UNAM, they seized thirty teachers and students in the department of political scence, held them for hours in the night, tore off their clothes, and poured a pot of paint over the head of one professor. The administratioin of UNAM said they would have to appear before the university judicial board. There was no mention of civil courts. In view of such happenings and the nominal pay for the faculty, it is surprising that anyone wants to teach there.

Ronald Hilton - 2/09/01