Huffpost WorldPost
Yoani Sanchez Headshot

In Cuba Academic Freedom Does Not Exist

Posted: Updated:

2010-02-18-con_fidel.jpg
I have heard hundreds of times that the university - like a cemetery - could not be invaded by the demons of repression. I imagined them milling around the steps, without the power to enter this zone of letters and mathematical formulas where the students are sheltered. But this supposed immunity lived only in my fantasies, as Cuban history shows successive transgressions suffered by the universities in my country. Before the gaze of the statue of Pallas Athena, the ideological castigation has broken into these precincts dedicated to knowledge and scholarship countless times.

During the first half of the Twentieth Century, several student protests went so far as to demand the resignation of the president, bearing witness to the social force that emanated from the student desks. Painted on the walls around La Colina, where the University is located, you can still see the youthful nonconformity that later revolutionary purges reduced to apathy. The University Student Federation (FEU) has ceased to be a hotbed of ideas and actions that more than once shook the city, and become, to the students, a representation of power. Thus, the organization lost all its rebel character and its leaders are no longer elected for their charisma or popularity, but rather for their political reliability. The slogan, "The University is for Revolutionaries," has contributed to imposing the mask as the safest way to achieve a diploma.

In these two years since Raul Castro came to power, expulsions for ideological reasons have continued - and are on an upward course - in the centers of higher education. When Sahily Navarro, daughter of a prisoner of the Black Spring, was prevented from returning to her classroom, I learned that the battered student league had gone from agony to necrosis. A few days after the headstone of sectarianism was placed over the remains of the FEU, Marta Bravo was expelled from her teacher training program for demanding reforms in the country. The notes of a requiem was composed by those who fired the teacher Dario Alejandro Paulino, after he opened a Facebook group to discuss issues with regards to the faculty of Social Communication. With these sad events, the federation - once led by Julio Antonio Mella - has confirmed its death at the hands of the dragons of dogmatism and intolerance, who now freely roam the university campus.

A group -- "Stop the Expulsions in Cuban Universities" -- has been created on Facebook to protest, at least virtually, against these outrages.