'UNAM is an open entity': Francisco Barnés de Castro
It is a lie that the UNAM It is a closed model, since it is an institution open to all ideas and it is a lie that it is neoliberal, said Francisco Barnés de Castro, former rector of the National University.
In January 1997, Barnés assumed the Rectorship and resigned in November 1999, after a paralysis of 207 days due to the proposed modification of the General Payment Regulations, which established the payment of fees.
In his resignation letter, Barnés argued that, along with the intransigence of radical groups, political groups had interfered in university life.
"These risks always exist, there are always (there are) internal and external groups that would like to influence in some way the succession process, fortunately UNAM has a very robust system, with many years of demonstrating that it is a system that has given very good results." , he acknowledged when questioned by Excelsior on whether there are risks of interference in the succession process at UNAM.
I am very pleased that in this process the Governing Board has decided to lengthen the consultation period to make it more transparent, allow for greater participation, encourage candidates to register and present their work plans in good time, and to ventilate it more actively in the entire community,” he added.
It is not a perfect system by any means, but it is by far the best we have had, the one we have found that has given enormous stability to the University, which has guaranteed continuity without problems. In the most difficult moments that the University has experienced, it has allowed it to continue and move forward without any setbacks; It seems to me that it has proven to be extraordinarily effective in guaranteeing continuity and a succession system that weights the selection of authorities, listening to the community, valuing the characteristics of the candidates and selecting the most suitable ones,” he said.
in his book The DoctorGuillermo Soberón Acevedo, rector of the UNAM between 1973 and 1971, recounts how the indifference and, perhaps, even the complicity of Ernesto Zedillo's government was a key factor in the resignation of Francisco Barnés de Castro, in the midst of the worst crisis that The National University has experienced, which led to a ten-month strike.
Yes, the criticism we have received must be taken with a grain of salt; To every institution that defends its autonomy, the President has chosen to question it and attribute everything from wanting to defend neoliberal models to the privileges of groups.
And there is nothing further than that in the University, the University continues to be an institution open to all ideas, to the discussion of all topics, to the open participation of everyone, to respect for freedom of expression, participation and organization like very few institutions in the country,” he highlighted when asked if he sees a University that is more vulnerable to official criticism.
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Barnés de Castro was general secretary of the UNAM during the middle of the second period of José Sarukhán's rectorship and before that, director of the Faculty of Chemistry.
He is the third engineer to reach the top administrative position at UNAM. Before him was Nabor Carrillo, the first to complete an eight-year rectorate, and then Javier Barros Sierra, the natural leader most recognized by the community for his defense of autonomy against the government of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, in 1968.
I had to preside over one of the best universities in Latin America, but it is already among the 100 best in the world.
And as in any institution of this size, the job of the rector is to coordinate the work of everyone, to induce a process of continuous and permanent change of improvement, of improvement of systems, of adapting to the times, to new technologies, to advancement. of knowledge, to the change in educational methodologies that imply technological advancement and information systems and access to information,” he explained.
—What type of rector is required at the moment, an academic or a politician?
Well, the combination of the two would be the most appropriate; In order to maintain leadership within the University and abroad, it is advisable that he be an academic with experience in his field, in his discipline, in teaching and in research, who has earned personal prestige, but who has political ability. It is certainly essential. Being inclusive is essential.
Directing solely through the imposition of authority does not work.”
Before coming to the Rector's Office, Barnés de Castro was Undersecretary of Hydrocarbons and Energy Policy and Technological Development of the Ministry of Energy, during the Zedillist government.
The dialogue with the outside must be continuous and permanent, a good part of the rector's time is representing the University in different forums, in different media, in associations of international universities, in Latin America, with federal authorities, with state authorities where the University is located and, at the same time, be present, open, speaking with the different university authorities inside to understand what the problem is to support specific projects, to promote issues of interest to the University, and it is a position very, very demanding,” he said when asked about what the dialogue with the different levels of government should be like.
Rector during the last term of a PRI president in the last century, Barnés thinks, as he thought 26 years ago when he was appointed by the Governing Board, that the main challenge that the National University has is how to remain relevant to Mexican society amid the changing conditions of the country.
Not only the change in political conditions in the country, in which the University is evidently autonomous from the federal government authorities, but it must have a good relationship with the government authorities to be able to function properly. But more important than that is that society's expectations are changing, how to anticipate this, how to induce processes in the University that allow us to always remain relevant to Mexican society, that is the first challenge or the most important challenge that any rector has. ”, he concluded.
-With information from Leticia Robles de la Rosa
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