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Hugo Casanova Cardiel: UNAM and the national government: the challenges of the future


Throughout its history, the National University has been a crucial space for the development of the country. The great moments of the 20th and 21st centuries have found a powerful echo in the multiple actions and expressions of the university community. These voices have not always been complacent and, on the contrary, have known how to be critical and have come to confront the established. In this regard, it is possible to reinterpret Derrida’s conception of university without condition, which, according to the philosopher, not only has the right to question everything, but also has the responsibility to do so (Madrid, Trotta, 2002).

The National University has allowed the expression of the most diverse positions and has given way, for more than a century, to the free expression of ideas and arguments. That freedom, many university students consider, must be maintained at all costs because, in addition to being one of the foundations of their academic assignment and their reason for being, it constitutes one of the central sources of the nation’s political and social debate.

In the perspective of the future, the coming decades pose important challenges for UNAM before itself and before the national government. A concise and incomplete list of the factors that can be glimpsed in the relationship referred to here includes the following.

1. The issue that essentially regulates the relationship between the National University and the country’s government is autonomy. Previous texts already alluded to this attribute in various ways and insisted on its contingent nature. The future holds for us the need to consolidate the university autonomous framework and to endorse it as the basis of a bond in which each party fulfills its responsibilities without hesitation.

2. Financing is another central aspect in the relationship discussed here. The State’s commitment to provide UNAM with sufficient resources operates in parallel with autonomy. It is a constitutive element of the relationship and its fulfillment allows the operation of the institution. The future calls for a clear commitment from the State in terms of its amounts and allocation mechanisms, as well as a definitive agreement that, guaranteeing financing for higher education in the country, transcends partisan and six-year borders.

3. The responsibilities of the university are based on the fulfillment of its academic assignment; in maintaining high levels of demand and performance in the achievement of their teaching, research, dissemination and social bonding tasks. The future implies the need for the institution to offer the best academic alternatives for its students, to address major national problems through research, as well as to endorse its ability to respond to social signals. In this sense, the years to come will increase the demands of the most diverse university sectors to achieve a greater presence in collegiate decisions. In all of this, the institution has the opportunity to rethink and adapt its regulatory, governance and management structures.

4. One of the great topics in charge of the UNAM includes the identification and attention of the multiple asymmetries of our country: social; of Justice; of health; gender (especially women and people with non-binary options); security and, of course, education. Although the university cannot solve the profound inequalities of society by itself, the future marks the need for us to promote programs that consider and respond, within the scope of their competence, to such questions.

5. Among the great lessons of the pandemic, it is possible to find that the country – like many others – was not prepared to deal with dire and risky situations. The identification of the origin, structure and pathogenesis of the virus, as well as the human and social processes that were affected in the health emergency, exceeded all expectations and it is necessary to underline that Mexico was taken by surprise. Undoubtedly, the future forces and urges us to develop strategies to deal not only with health phenomena, but also with situations that can overwhelm us: earthquakes, floods, violence, insecurities and wars…

6. The construction of a national project, consistent and based on knowledge, must endorse the link between the State and UNAM –and of course the set of institutions and higher education centers in the country–. The future and its imminent innovation processes must be supported by the rigorous knowledge that emerges from scientific and university establishments. In this task, due to its academic staff and its resources of all kinds, UNAM will continue to be available to the best causes in the nation.

This text closes a brief series focused on the great moments of the National University and its relationship with the State. In a personal way, it is the most recent chapter of a link that I began, in 1987, with this newspaper through an article promoted by my always remembered friend Luis Javier Garrido. I thank those who have distinguished me with their reading for five months. And I thank Carmen Lira and Luis Hernández for the hospitality they offer me and for their boundless appreciation of university students. Long life to The Day.

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