Home > Dimas Castellanos, Translator: David Fernandez > The Autonomous University in Cuba

The Autonomous University in Cuba


In regards to civil rights, the Cuban government insists not only in living in the past, but actually to regress. In recent times the Ministry of Higher Education released a document for the Reorganization of Political-Ideological Work in the Universities that, among other things, declared that the University for all will become the University for revolutionaries only.

The Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Freedom of Conscience, Word, Press, Reunion, Association and the Right to Vote, constitute the basis of communication, as well as of interchange of opinions, of conduct, of  decision making and the formation of associations, through which the individual  or groups’ interests can be expressed. They constitute the guarantee for citizenship’s participation in the public life and in the nation’s main definitions.

The decision no only constitute the negation of Marti’s precept that says: Con Todos y para el Bien de Todos” (With All and for the Good of All), but it also negates our Constitutional History. For example: In January of 1959, when the first Governmental Council was formed, instead of reestablishing the Constitution of 1940 as promised, and as stated in “La Historia Me Absolvera” (History will Absolve Me), it was reformed without popular consultation in order to confer the Prime Minister the faculties of Chief of Government, and to the Minister’s Council the Congress’ functions. This was a modification similar to what Batista had made with the Statues that substituted the Constitution after the coup d’etat of 1952. It was right after that it was proceeded to dismount the Civil Society and all its instruments, including the University’s autonomy.

In January 1959 the first government cabinet was formed, instead of the promise of restoring the 1940 Constitution, as stated in History Will Absolve Me, it was reformed without popular consultation, to give the Prime Minister the powers of Chief of Government and of the Council of Ministers the functions of Congress; an amendment similar to what Batista had done with the statutes that replaced the constitution after the 1952 coup. He then proceeded to dismantle the civil society and all its instruments, including university autonomy.

The previous University Reform in the Island dated January of 1923. It was then that the University’s Student Body, influenced  by the Manifiesto de Cordoba (Cordoba’s Manifesto) hoisted by Argentinian students in June of 1918, demanded the free Superior Education and the University’s Autonomy.

Taking advantage of the conflict between students and professors for the ousting a student from the School of Engineering at the University of Havana,  a Superior Council of Universities’ professors and students of the three University Centers of the country was formed, including Government representatives. Such Council undertook the work that concluded with the University’s Reform presented January 10, 1962. That same year, the Communist leader, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, in an article published in the Press, summarized the achievement of the Reform with three questions: “What”, “How”and “Who” will be studying? The “what” and the “how” responded to the new situation created by the arrival of the revolutionaries to power. As for the “who”, this was the essence of the problem. The new University, he said, will be run in conjunction with professors and students, being the students’ participation, originated in the ’30’s battles, almost a requirement. Nevertheless he clarified that, “In the same measure that the University’s revolution is the result of a real Revolution and that Socialism presides the transformations, it is not possible to think of professors and students as antagonistic groups…Juan Marinello, a professor to whom he referred as having a revolutionary conscience, oriented by Marxism-Leninism and militant of that ideology during many years, will not need of the student’s vigilance  in order to run the University because he will have the sufficient maturity to focus on the Superior Educational problems with a well-aimed criterion.”

And so, the University’s Autonomy, conquered by students during students’ battles in the Republic, and authenticated in Article 53 of the 1940 Constitution which says: “The University of Havana is autonomous and will be governed according to its Statutes and the Law to which they must adjust, ceased existing, without being annulled.”

From that time, the University, one of the most important sources for social changes in our history, was rendered useless for that intent. One of the worst consequences consisted in that under the control of the totalitarian State, the University hoisted the motto that the University was for the revolutionaries, a motto that resulted in the separation of hundreds of students and professors who did not agree with the system’s ideology. Nevertheless, with the later universalization of the Superior Education process, it seemed that the University, even without its autonomy, would again be for all. Now, in plenty XXI Century, in the midst of the worst crisis of our history, instead of reestablishing the Civic Rights, the Cuban State has decided to go backward with the University’s declaration that the University is only for the revolutionaries.

Translated by: David Fernandez

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