EspañolThey say politics and economics are like men and women: different, but they go hand in hand. For students studying economics at Romulo Gallegos National Experimental University (UNERG), politics stands in the way of their academic pursuits.
What was supposed to be an event to enhance the image of their university, the fifth National Meeting for Economic Students (VENEE), held for economics majors throughout the country, turned out to be more than the organizers bargained for.
According to conference coordinator Guiovana Pizarro, the VENEE sought to bring prestige to UNERG, where she studies. It was an opportunity to increase its competitiveness with other Venezuelan universities — to “remove the Chavista image a little bit,” Pizarro said.
Our proposal was reasonable: improve the facility’s gardens ourselves, paint the conference room where the event would be held, change the curtains, put everything in order to be ready to host [the conference].
But even after doing everything on our end that had been agreed upon, two days before the conference, the director called the event’s organization committee to tell us we did not have the support of our department, and that we were not allowed to use the rooms we had been given permission to use.
UNERG officials say the student organization is to blame f0r the event’s failure. However, VENEE coordinators had been busy finding sponsors and handling other logistical concerns since last year.
According to staff members who requested anonymity, the real reason was politics. Rather than the alleged disorganization, university officials felt the academic conference represented nothing more than a subversion of the Venezuelan regime’s ideology.
Apparently, this would have gotten in the way of university authorities, given that it was directed in large part by students who do not support the regime. According to members of the organizing committee, other academic departments, such as the medical faculty, have the support of the university president and face no such problems.
The group of young university students, and future economists, were not intimidated by the obstacles placed in front of them by UNERG President Arisela Medina. Despite having their venue blocked so late in the game, they were able to hold the conference as scheduled on September 24-26 in the Juan German Rosció Auditorium, and even though this venue belongs to the National Institute of Socialist Education and Training (INCES).
In a peculiar development, the conference was attended by more students from other Venezuelan universities than from UNERG, even though they were the host club. This was not on account of a lack of interest; rather, it was due to the university administration’s underhanded tactics. To further disrupt the event, UNERG held another economics conference on the very same days as the VENEE one.
A University in the Shadows
For many years, UNERG has been considered “Chavista” and “revolutionary.” Thus, the institution receives funding with greater ease than other Venezuelan universities.
But with corruption as widespread as it is in Venezuela, UNERG is no exception. From organizing pro-regime events to manipulated curricula — Roman law is not taught in the law school because it is deemed “bourgeois”— UNERG has lost its once prestigious reputation.
UNERG also suffers from the same problem that is common throughout the rest of the country: rampant insecurity. As terrifying as it may seem, students realize that at any moment an armed assailant could enter the classroom and steal their belongings.
This is a a relatively common occurrence on campus. Earlier this year, for example, the kidnapping and rape of a medical-school professor shocked both students and faculty.
The growing sentiment on campus is not concern over security, however, but indignation. The university that was once a source of pride in the central plains of Venezuela, no longer offers the same quality of education it did in past decades.
Excessive politicization has damaged its reputation throughout the country, and this one in particular is a shadow of its former self.
Editor’s note: the author of this article prefers to remain anonymous.