The NGO Aula Abierta organized the first «National Student Encounter on Academic Freedom, University Rights and Autonomy», held at the UCV last November 18th. Photo: courtesy Aula Abierta.

(Mérida 25/11/2019) – In the framework of the Day of the University Student that is celebrated every November 21st in Venezuela, the Observatory of Human Rights of the University of Los Andes (ODH-ULA)[1] participated in two activities organized in connection with the event. In Caracas, the NGO Aula Abierta made possible the first «National Student Encounter on Academic Freedom, University Rights and Autonomy «, while in Merida the ULA awarded, as every year, the Order «Luis María Ribas Dávila» to its students with higher academic performance.

On November 21st, 1957, the students of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV)[2] burst into the Congress of Cardiology that was being held in that house of studies to denounce the censorship and human rights violations committed by the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez. That day, at the Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB[3]), students burned a copy of the newspaper «El Heraldo» a portrait of the dictator and a copy of the Electoral Law, which was fraudulent. The strike and the actions of the students were part of the triggers for the fall of Pérez Jiménez in January 1958. Since that year, every November 21st is celebrated the National Day of University Students, by Official Decree of the Governing Board.

Proposals and debates to strengthen university autonomy and academic freedom

In the framework of the Day of the University Student, last November 18th, the first «National Student Encounter on Academic Freedom, University Rights and Autonomy» was held at the headquarters of the UCV, in Caracas. The activity was organized by the NGO Aula Abierta with the support of the Center for Peace and Human Rights of the Central University of Venezuela (CPDDHH-UCV[4]), the Human Rights Commission of the Faculty of Juridical and Political Sciences of the University of Zulia (LUZ[5]), Student Movement groups from various regions of the country and the ODH-ULA.

The objective of this meeting was to debate proposals for a new Organic Law of Education that respects the university autonomy enshrined in the national Constitution, to discern the meaning and scope of the human right to academic freedom, and to present a student manifesto to reject the criminalization by the State of university protest, the budgetary suffocation of universities, and the continuing decline in salaries of teachers and workers in higher education.

The leaders of the Student Movement also stated in the manifesto the need to build a new model of Venezuelan university, which is not subject to or dependent on the incumbent government. For it, the students proposed to bring together university authorities, union representatives and student leaders in order to construct a proposal for an Organic Law of Universities that would strengthen academic freedom and university autonomy.

Mario Bonucci Rossini, rector of the ULA, Mayda Hocevar, director of the ODH-ULA, and Angel Andara, representative of the Association of Teachers of the ULA (Apula[6]), were in attendance at this meeting for the ULA institution. The ODH-ULA applauds the completion of this activity because it has been a space to strengthen ties between authorities, unions and university students, where the debate and the proposal of ideas and proposals in defense of university autonomy, academic freedom and university rights were the meeting points.

As every November 21st , the University of Los Andes (ULA) awarded the Order «Luis María Ribas Dávila» to its students with the highest academic performance.

Honors to the merit of the ulandino[7] students

In Merida, ULA students were honored in the Aula Magna of this institution. As every year, hundreds of students received the Order «Luis María Ribas Dávila» in recognition of their excellent academic performance. Ribas Dávila was a student of the old Seminary School San Buenaventura de Mérida and died fighting for the independence of Venezuela in the Battle of La Victoria.

More than 800 students – the ten best averages of each career taught in all the Nuclei, Extensions and Faculties of the ULA – were recognized with the referred Order. However, the budgetary asphyxiation maintained by Nicolás Maduro’s regime to the autonomous universities prevented the ULA from printing all the certificates. Thanks to the collaboration of workers and authorities, only 101 certificates were printed and delivered on November 21 during the event.

María Gabriela García Perno, law student and first average of the ULA this year (19,320 points), was in charge of delivering the central speech of the tribute. Ysabella Calderón Romero, an economics student, and Juan Diego Morón Flores, from the Systems Engineering program, were her companions on the podium. Both have averages of 19,159 and 19,057 points, respectively.

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the «Mamá Chela» dormitories, students Maricarmen Mora, María Cubillán and Bianca Saa also received awards for their high academic performance.

A Minute of Silence for Students Murdered, Wounded, and Imprisoned

Mayda Hocevar, director of ODH-ULA, began her intervention in the act by asking for a minute of silence for the student of the Universidad de Oriente (UDO), nucleus Monagas, Geraldo Ledezma, who was murdered on November 20th by criminals to steal his belongings. Hocevar gave an account in his speech of the current situation of university students in Venezuela and the repeated violations of their human rights, documented by this Observatory since its creation in 2014.

The director of ODH-ULA also referred to students who have lost their lives by the hands of state officials in the framework of social protests, those whose wounds left them with irrecoverable injuries, and those who have been deprived of liberty for the sole reason of demonstrating against the regime. Hocevar ended by congratulating those who, despite so many difficulties, continue to be university students in Venezuela.

[1] Acronym in Spanish (Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Los Andes).

[2] Acronym in Spanish (Universidad Central de Venezuela).

[3] Acronym in Spanish (Universidad Católica Andrés Bello).

[4] Acronym in Spanish (Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Central de Venezuela).

[5] Acronym in Spanish (La Universidad del Zulia).

[6] Acronym in Spanish (Asociación de Profesores de la Universidad de Los Andes).

[7] ULA students.

University students made proposals and received honors in their day

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