Tension marks University of Chile anniversary:
Students Protest 1997 budget cuts
ChilNet extract from El Mercurio, La Epoca
21 November 1996
budget cuts and student protests created a climate of tension
Tuesday at University of Chile celebrations of the 154th
anniversary of its founding.
anniversary celebrations conducted behind closed doors, this year
professors, administration staff and students were invited, as
well as Education Minister Jose Pablo Arellano and other
But ten students,
their faces concealed by black, conical hoods were a constant,
held silent protest during the event. Outside, nearly 100
students voiced their protests of the crisis that afflicts the
Last Thursday, a
joint congressional committee approved budget cuts totaling more
than $5.1 billion pesos (US$12.2 million) for the University of
Chile's1997 academic year.
The issue has put
the University of Chile at odds with the Association of Regional
Universities, which contends that the state treasury channels
funds to the "U" that are discretionary, inequitable,
and not subject to public bids.
A letter of
congratulations sent from Canada by President Eduardo Frei, was
followed by harsh words of criticism from recently re-elected
Student Federation president Rodrigo Roco, a Communist Party
member. The university, charged Roco, is "permanently
ignored and cowed, but above all threatened by internal
politics." The state, he said, owes universities an historic
debt and needs to take action "so that universities do not
have to act like wild beasts fighting over scraps."
chancellor Jaime Lavados said congressional deputies who
supported the budget cuts exercised mistaken judgment in failing
to take into account the school's academic excellence nationally.
He discounted any favoritism towards the university, citing
statistics to back up his claim. Between 1981 and 1996 the
University of Chile«s share of the national budget fell from
28.8 percent to 22.4 percent, while funds allocated to regional
universities increased from 18.4 percent to 29.7 percent,
according to Lavados. *