The criminalization of academic activity in the Temer and Bolsonaro governments



Report of a crusade against freedom of expression

“Freedom of expression enjoys a preferential position in the Democratic State of Law, as it is a precondition for the enlightened exercise of other rights and freedoms” (Luiz Roberto Barroso, Minister of the Federal Supreme Court).

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance” (Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States).

The criminalization of academic activity in the Temer governments

In the period that began with the revocation of A.1.5, on December 13, 1978, until the end of the Dilma Rousseff government, on August 16, 2016, Brazilian university professors did not experience limitations on freedom of expression – except for isolated cases and little acquaintances.

At least not in public universities: neither through administrative processes in the academic field, nor through lawsuits by sectors of civil society aiming to create obstacles to the free exercise of teaching activities.

Only with the enthronement of the illegitimate government of Michel Temer did higher education teachers become the object of denunciations, due to their critical ideological stance, especially in relation to the white coup carried out, via impeachment, against President Dilma Rousseff.

The witch hunt began with the lawsuit filed by the then Minister of Education, Mendonça Filho, against the promoters of a course on the coup, organized in April 2018 by professors at the University of Brasília. Mendonça, assuming the role of a new Torquemada, officiated, on February 13, 2018, to the Comptroller General of the Union (CGU), to the Federal Audit Court (TCU) and to the Federal Public Prosecution Service (MPF) a request for investigation of administrative impropriety on the part of those responsible for creating the aforementioned course, allegedly for using a public institution for the purposes of ideological proselytism. According to the Minister, the course in question “has no scientific basis. It is just the promotion of a political party thesis” (BRANDINO, 2018).

It was to be expected that the ministerial initiative, which was so ostensibly an attack on academic freedom and university autonomy – condemned even by representatives of liberal thought, such as the Folha de São Paulo (EDITORIAL, 2018) and then Senator Cristovam Buarque (BUARQUE: 2018) – did not multiply. But times were different now – worse, in this respect, than in the milder phases of the military regime – with the horizon clouded by multiple and concrete threats to democracy.

Despite the example of UnB having been followed by dozens of Brazilian public universities, and even by foreign universities (UNIVERSIDADES INTERNACIONAIS…2018) that organized courses with similar content, the reaction of conservative sectors, inside and outside the university institution, did not fade. The attacks against freedom of expression continued in May 2018, with the MPF calling the Justice, through Popular Action, on the initiative of a Councilor from Salvador, with the aim of verifying the alleged use of a public institution for party-political purposes (UFBA, 2018 ).

At the Federal University of Ceará, it was the MPF itself that filed a Public Civil Action in April 2018, to annul the administrative acts that instituted the discipline on the “2016 Coup”, arguing that the UFC “chose to officially impose a specific narrative to students who enrolled in the discipline” (MPF asks… 2018). He also did it at the UFG, on February 28 of that same year, to determine whether the course on the “2016 Coup” would be coated with party-political propaganda” (MPF. 2018). At UFRN, the Federal Court, on April 01, 2018, denied a request for an injunction, filed through a Popular Action, so that discipline on the “2016 Coup would be suspended” (PÁDUA, 2018).

Subsequently, the Federal Court rejected all lawsuits filed against the holding of courses on the 2016 coup, with the exception of the course taught at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UEMS) suspended due to an injunction granted by a judge of 1st instance, which conditioned the approval of the aforementioned course for the inclusion of theses by defenders of impeachment in its programmatic content (MINISTERIO:2019).

Only in May 2021, the STF, judging the Complaint filed by UEMS teachers and accepted by its President, Minister Luiz Fux, released the continuation, without judicial protection, of the course under analysis. Luiz Fux's decision could not have been different, since the STF had already expressed its clear and unanimity on the matter, in favor of freedom of expression and university autonomy (2021).

Finally, in October 2018, during the election campaign, a series of police actions, reaching at least 30 higher education institutions in the country, attacked university autonomy and academic freedom.

We list below the most serious violations of these two pillars of university coexistence: court decision, determining the removal of banners, containing the words "UFF Anti-Fascist Right", "Marielle Franco" present and "Dictatorship Never Again", for considering them propaganda electoral; vetoing the holding of events; banning the publication of articles on debates and public classes and ordering the removal of banners, leaflets and posters.

There was even an invasion of a university – the Federal University of Pará – where armed police officers called by a student, interrupted a class and threatened the professor with arrest, after he was accused of indoctrination in the classroom (PROCURADORIA. 2018). But all these aggressions against the university institution were considered illegal by the Justice, thanks to the reckless action of the Public Prosecutor's Office (PFDC) of the MPF, in contrast to that of the conservative sectors of the MP.

Opinion issued on March 21, 2018, by the PFDC of Rio Grande do Sul, promoted the filing of the representation filed by State Deputy Marcel Van Hatten, of the New Party, against the realization, by the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences of UFRGS, of the course : “The 2016 coup” and the new conservative wave in Brazil” (PFDC: 2018). In the same way, the PFDC, on May 8, 2018, manifesting itself on requests for investigation into the constitutionality of courses on “the 2016 coup”, defended university autonomy in defining the content of academic disciplines. (PFDC: 2018).

The analysis of the representations of the PFDC, listed above, will be the object of the third part of this article, as well as the judgments of the STF motivated by the actions of electoral inspectors and police contrary to university autonomy. In them, the Supreme Court reiterates its condition as one of the pillars on which the Brazilian public university is based.

The attacks against freedom of expression by universities

As we have seen, the initiatives reported in the first part of this paper all came from authorities external to the universities involved. Only the case reported below came from the institution itself – Universidade Federal do ABC (UFABC). In this regard, the Rector appointed, on September 23, 2018, an Inquiry Commission opened by the University Internal Affairs in July 2018 to investigate an anonymous complaint against professors Gilberto Maringoni, Giorgio Romano and Valter Pomar. They were accused of participating in an event for the launch of the book “The truth will win”, which features a long interview with the former President.

This initiative by UFABC took place months after the opinion of the PFDC, stating that the Justice was incompetent to investigate the complaints it received about the organization of courses related to the “2016 Coup”, in view of the principle of unrestricted freedom of expression in academia. But it is realistic that the king, the Rector of UFABC gave vent to the revanchist hatred against the university institution and the left, accepting an anonymous request for investigation regarding the launch of the book in question – say, and passant, routine activity in universities.

In the case in question, the new Torquemada used a grotesque questionnaire as an instrument to identify the “crime” – a true interrogation of an inquisitorial nature, as can be seen from the questions contained therein, ostensibly partial and discriminatory. Examples of some of them: was there, during the launch of the book on Lula, an apology for crime? Were there expressions of appreciation on the part of public servants, during working hours, in your favor and in favor of leftist parties? Were there, during the event in question, expressions of disapproval against President Temer and members of the Judiciary or Public Ministry?

cannot accept the naturalization of such processes, in which unsubstantiated anonymous complaints are investigated, fascistoid questionnaires are drawn up and “discretion” is also required on the part of those investigated. The UFABC Inquiry Commission – which should never have existed – decided, after preliminary examination of the anonymous complaint against the organizers of the launch of the book on Lula, to archive it. Undoubtedly, this was due to the nonconformity shown by the university community and the pressure from all sectors of society, defenders of unrestricted freedom of expression of thought (PROFESSORES da UFABC…2018).

Critical analysis of Parquet's representations against courses on the 1964 coup

Aside from right-wing ideological conditioning, only bad faith, or ignorance of what freedom of expression means, especially in an academic setting, could lead members of the Public Ministry not to reject at the outset, due to its intrinsic ineptitude, representations filed against course organizers on the 2016 institutional coup.

Indeed, the allegation that the offer of disciplines referring to either the 1964 military coup or the 2016 “white coup” violates the principle of pluralism of ideas, enshrined in the country’s Constitution, is unfounded. What would harm this principle would be the banning of courses that adopted an interpretation different from the one that qualifies Dilma's deposition as a coup. Some of the members of the Public Prosecutor's Office who called those responsible for the courses against the 1964 coup, such as the Attorney General in Ceará, Oscar Costa Filho, believe that each course offered by the university should include different approaches to its object of study.

Thus, “the educational institution did not limit itself to making an impartial and constructive analysis of a recent historical event in national politics. It preferred to officially impose a specific narrative on students who enrolled in the discipline” (COSTA, 2018). The Public Prosecutor in question is making a triple mistake. First: there is no “partial and constructive analysis”: what exists is the diversity of approaches on the 2016 coup, as on the Revolution of 30, the civil-military coup of 1964, the Russian Revolution and a myriad of other events.

How many courses were organized in Brazil on the 1964 coup without demanding, at the same time, that space be given to those who defend that there was, not a coup, but a Revolution? Do it now in relation to impeachment it is a sign of the dark times in which we live.

Second: this diversity of approaches cannot be resolved by offering, in the same discipline, multiple versions, which could compromise its doctrinal and political-ideological coherence. It is contemplated with the possibility for everyone to offer courses consistent with their ideas, as long as they have the necessary academic qualifications.

Tertius: it is an extension course, of an optional nature, having nothing to do with the official imposition of a narrative. Last but not least: for those who add the argument of partisanship: these disciplines were organized without any interference from the PT, including both teachers who are PT members and severe critics of that party (LUIZ NASSIF ON LINE: 2018).

The same Prosecutor Costa Filho also makes an odd suggestion: that the UFC change the name of the discipline “meeting the interests of the community”. The Prosecutor's stupidity is impressive, as this change in no way alters what matters: the content of the course. Nor is it known how it would “serve the interests of the community”. (COSTA: 2018). Attributing to the professors who teach the course on the 2016 coup the practice of administrative impropriety is an act of revanchism by those who do not conform to the fact that the public university is a prestigious institution where establishment critics often enjoy hegemony (BASSO : 2018).

Had there been judicial sentences condemning professors who organized or participated in a course on the aforementioned scams, for administrative impropriety, they would have shaken the foundations on which university coexistence is based: freedom of expression and institutional autonomy. It would have the deleterious effect of a true “Gag Law”.

In fact, the condemnation of professors would generate, within universities, unprecedented legal uncertainty, leaving professors without knowing for sure what they would be allowed to say or organize – a characteristic situation of a dictatorship. Little would remain of the university, as a sacred temple of the free clash of ideas.

One could also fear for the freedom that professors have always enjoyed in regular university courses, to adopt the analytical approach that suits them, which even in the last years of AI-5 was denied them. And thus limit the freedom of chair, predefining the conditions of offer and even the content of the disciplines taught.

The position of the Public Prosecutor's Office for Citizens' Rights

The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office for Citizens' Rights (PFDC) in Rio Grande do Sul, the first to categorically rule out the legitimacy of Justice to analyze the merits of subject contents offered by higher education institutions, considerably reduced the chances of obscurantist forces silencing the university . In its Technical Note, this human rights defense body of the MPF highlighted that “restricting the discussion of certain subjects, in the school environment, affects the democratic management of the public service, in addition to contradicting the constitutional principles that protect the freedoms of teaching and the dissemination of culture, thought, art and knowledge”. And he adds: “even if there was any impropriety in aspects of the realization of the said course, the controversy in this regard should be resolved internally, within the scope of the competent university bodies, without the intervention of the Public Ministry and the Judiciary”. (2018).

Following in its footsteps, the PFDC states that the Judiciary “does not have the competence to question, let alone suspend, courses on the 1964 coup”, in view of the provisions of the Magna Carta that ensure the didactic-scientific autonomy of the university institution (art. 207 of the Federal Constitution).

In a 17-page opinion on the matter, written by Attorney Enrico Rodrigues de Freitas, he states that the “University constitutes a propitious space for values ​​and narratives that are not necessarily univocal, but fatally dialectical. In this way, any higher education institution can host courses on the same theme, proposed from the autonomy of its own professor or student, especially considering the existence of one, two or more narratives in dispute, in multiple scientific fields, which interpret differently from each other the facts that occurred in the Brazilian institutional field in the year 2016” (PFDC, 2018).

By doing so, the PFDC of the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office rescued the best of this body as an ombudsman for human rights and showed the prominent role that institutions such as Parquet, when animated by the democratic spirit, they can have in the preservation of the rule of law.

Doctrine and jurisprudence

The last Brazilian constitutions, those of 1946 and 1988, highlighted the freedom of transmission and reception of knowledge, in relation to the exercise of teaching, when they consider as one of the principles of teaching the “freedom to learn, teach, research and disseminate their knowledge”. thought, art and knowledge, within a pluralist vision of ideas, pedagogical conceptions and public and private educational institutions” (art. 206, II and III of the 1988 Constitution)

It is up to the teacher, within the subject contained in the official teaching programs and school curricula, to teach his course with the freedom of criticism, content, form and technique that he deems most convenient. According to the late and eminent constitutionalist Sampaio Dória, in his book Comments on the 1946 Constitution, in this are embodied those two rights, pertinent to the freedom of professorship: “that of being the professor) the sole judge of the truth about what he teaches and that of his sole dependence on the technique of his teaching. There is no official science, nor official teaching method. Each teacher is master of how he teaches his teachings” (DORIA, Vol. IV/778).

The celebrated jurist José Afonso da Silva stresses that this is the recognition of the freedom of a class of specialists in the communication of knowledge, which are teachers. He underlines that the expression freedom of professorship was more restrictive because it was linked to the idea of ​​professorship, which had the connotation of ownership in certain teaching positions. According to Silva: “The formula used now is more comprehensive because it is addressed to any teacher, to teachers of any level, giving them freedom to teach, learn and research” (SILVA, 258: 2017).

The opinion of these two distinguished constitutionalists summarizes everything that can be said on the matter, corresponding to the unanswerable interpretation of what the Constitution provides in this regard.

of jurisprudence

The constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression has been in force since the 1946 Constitution, registering, even under the military regime, jurisprudence in its favor. In 1964, the STF acquitted an Economics professor for distributing copies of a manifesto contrary to the current political situation to 26 students, accused of inciting subversion and the political and social order.

On October 31, 2018, during the period of the presidential elections, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) unanimously granted the Claim of Non-compliance with a Fundamental Precept (ADPF), filed by the Attorney General's Office (PGR), placing a shovel cal in attempts to hamper freedom of expression at the University. In a unanimous decision, the STF endorsed an injunction granted by Minister Carmen Lúcia, then President of that court, suspending decisions by the Electoral Court that authorized the entry of police officers, removal of banners and banning debates and open classes.

In a historic pronouncement, in her vote as rapporteur for the allegation of unconstitutionality of measures restricting freedom of expression in universities, Carmen Lúcia expressed herself as follows: “To impose unanimity, preventing or hindering the plural manifestation of thought is to lock the university, silencing students and muzzling professors. The only legitimate force to invade universities is that of free and plural ideas. Anyone else who enters there is a tyrant, and tyranny is the exact opposite of democracy” (TUROLLO, 2018). And yet: that “the formation of consensus is only legitimate when resulting from free manifestations. Democracy is not unanimity. Consensus is not imposition, it is free conformation based on respect for differences” (MEUNIER, 2021).

It is also necessary to record the vote of STF Minister Luiz Roberto Barroso. He stated that, in a Democratic State of Law, “freedom of expression must take precedence over other freedoms, especially in Brazil, which has a tradition of restricting this right, as in the military dictatorship. In the name of religion, public safety and customs, Brazilian history in this matter has been marked by intolerance, persecution and the curtailment of freedoms” (JUNIOR, 2018).

At the international level, the significance and scope of the right to freedom of expression (a type of which academic freedom is a species) in the democratic regime was enshrined, among other judicial decisions, in a memorable judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in a landmark case , known as Handside v United Kingdom, in the following terms: “Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man. It is applicable not only to information or ideas that are favorable or harmless, but also those that shock, offend or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the requirements of pluralism, tolerance and intellectual openness, without which there is no democratic society” (European Human Rights Report.

The bolsonaro government, autonomy and freedom of expression in universities

The project “School without Party”

Started in March 1964 and ended with the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution, the arbitrariness that flourished during the military regime, especially the repression of the right of assembly and the free expression of thought in universities, returned with force, as we have seen, with the criminalization of teaching activity in 2018, only this time under the cloak of legality.

The rise to the Presidency of a notorious neo-fascist has aggravated the disrespect even greater to the pillars on which university coexistence is based, guaranteed by the Magna Carta. This is the unanimous understanding of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), which also considers the violation of university autonomy to be unconstitutional.

Likewise, the unanimous position of the doctrine leaves no room for any doubt about the broad constitutional and judicial guarantees related to freedom of expression, guaranteed not only to those who exercise university teaching, but also teaching at all levels of education. However, practice has shown that its effectiveness depends on a correlation of forces favorable to those who defend freedom of expression, in the face of the belligerent attitude of conservative forces imbued with delusional anti-communism and orthodox moral convictions. And also, the weight that these forces have in the scope of the Public Ministry and the Judiciary.

If this were not the case, how could it be explained that, despite such solid legal-constitutional foundations, universities were shaken, in 2018, by initiatives by members of the Public Ministry and by judicial decisions of dubious constitutionality, deeply affecting the autonomy and freedom of expression of its teachers? (PADILHA, 2018).

Had it not been for the decisions of the STF, which barred all these initiatives, and the firm position of the Federal Attorney for Citizens' Rights, there would have been several convictions against university professors, for alleged administrative impropriety, or for other crimes that were imputed to them, with the only objective of muzzling them (POWER'S OFFICE..., 2018).

Dismissed, while the composition of the STF does not change substantially, and the autonomy of the Federal Attorney for Citizens' Rights is not polluted by the Attorney General of the Republic, the criminalization of teaching activity, it is necessary to continue the legal and political confrontation, of initiatives that aim to make it effective, like the Law of the Gag. It is a project that “sends a message of certainty and supposition of supposedly neutral ideas, it actually hides it. a strongly persecutory, repressive and violent content, imposing serious restrictions on the pedagogical conduct of teachers” (RAMOS: 2019, p.76).

According to the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, in a survey by the Democratic Education Movement, carried out in August 20189, there is a record of 121 bills linked to Escola Sem Partido in municipal and state legislatures, which aim to equip educational institutions in favor of a fascist and regressive ideology. Initiatives directly linked to supporters of Jair Bolsonaro.

Indeed, they propose changes to key pieces of legislation and educational planning, prohibiting the approach of certain topics in textbooks and typifying crimes that fundamentalists understand to be indoctrination (ALGEBAIDE:2017, p.47). It is clear that these initiatives are not loose, uncoordinated, otherwise their legal fragility would already have compromised them. “Behind what could be considered a simple trap, there is a powerful network of relationships that surprises with various articulations and networks that permeate civil society, religious instances and political parties” (ESPINOSA E CAMPANUCCI: 2017, p. 21).

The current government, led by Jair M. Bolsonaro, who supports the Escola Sem Partido, “encourages discriminatory behavior, through the practice of filming teachers by students, in order to advise that they report them if they are teaching content related to the theses by Paulo Freire” (GHIARDELLI:2019, p.82).

With similar encouragement, there were several constraints on freedom of expression and assembly, with emphasis on the note by the Minister of Education, Eduardo Weintraub, who sent letters to educational institutions saying that “teachers, employees, students and even their parents do not are authorized to stimulate protests during school hours”. On that occasion, the PFDC recommended that the Minister “refrain from curbing freedom in schools and promote the immediate cancellation of the said note”, under penalty of the Attorney General’s Office taking action to Justice so that the recommendation becomes a court order (CENSURA … 2019) .

Among the abuses practiced, there were even invasions of academic work environments. Among these, the one perpetrated by the military, in July 2019, when at least four of them invaded the SBPC meeting and filmed the lectures of one of its Directors, the renowned neuroscientist Sidarta Ribeiro (MILITARES invade… 2019). For this reason, it is important to remember that, currently “extreme right-wing rulers aim at two preferred targets to make their project effective: (1) equipping the judicial system, with an eye especially on control of the STF, allowing changes in the Constitution, under an apparent guardianship of legality (2) silencing of opposition voices, publicly smearing biographies, through the use of justice and intelligence systems to intimidate and financially undermine both the press not aligned with the government and educational institutions, spaces of freedom of expression , dangerous for the stability of its authoritarian power project. (ALGEBAIDE, 2017).

Despite the strength of articulation, within society and politics, involving all right-wing social and political trends in favor of the Gag Law, the STF, this neo-fascist proposal, suffered a serious defeat. In effect, the STF, appraising, on June 4, 2020, a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality, filed on May 30, 2016, in the face of Law 7.800/2016, of the State of Alagoas, which was in force for 4 years, judged the said law DERROTA…2020 is totally unconstitutional).

The Supreme Court also unanimously declared the unconstitutionality of a municipal law in Nova Gama (MG) that prohibited the discussion of gender and sexuality in schools. The law, in force since 2015, prohibited material with information on gender ideology” in the city's schools (DERROTA…2020).

Decisions handed down by the Supreme Court, despite not having a binding character, as they do not oblige everyone, provide solid guidelines that should guide legislative activity, such as the freedom to learn, teach and research, which is not consistent with the imposition of neutrality, contemplated in the law of the State of Alagoas, mentioned above. Indeed, the intended neutrality would imply, according to the STF, not tolerating the exposition of different worldviews, ideologies and political perspectives from which a critical judgment of these conceptions can be formed (PFDC highlights…2021).

Finally, at the state level, in reaction to the proposal of Escola sem Partido, Deputy Carlos Minc (RJ) and others signed a bill that guarantees full freedom of expression, in the school environment, for teachers, students and employees, prohibits coercion against freedom to teach and guarantees student unions the right to promote debates.

After the approval by the Legislative Assembly of the “Law without Gag”, Governor Claudio Castro sanctioned it. However, due to pressure from the Bolsonarist bench, he tried to veto the law already enacted, but backed down, considering that he did not have legal support for the maneuver (BARREIRA E TELES: 2021).


The Bolsonaro government and the new attacks on freedom of expression and university autonomy.

Even the defeat inflicted on Bolsonarism, with the declaration of the unconstitutionality of the Gag Law, did not prevent this political-ideological current from cooling its spirit, as evidenced by the bill presented by Deputy Flávio Bolsonaro (PL 4425/2020), clearly totalitarian bias.

This bill considers it a crime against national security to prohibit “any reference to persons, organizations, events or dates that symbolize communism and Nazism”. It directly affects the school environment, by giving educational establishments the “responsibility of adopting measures aimed at making students aware of the crimes committed by representatives of the communist and Nazi regimes”

But the delusional bill is not limited to prescriptions of an administrative or pedagogical nature. Thus, anyone who manufactures, distributes or markets advertising symbols that use hammer and sickle or any other means of dissemination can be punished with imprisonment from two to five years and a fine (PROJETO… 2020). Insufficiently disclosed, this project, conceived by the “hate office”, has the silent endorsement of Bolsonaro. Its approval would hit the foundations of our democracy, paving the way for the establishment of a neo-fascist state.

In addition to the two projects analyzed, flagships of the Bolsonarist crusade, of a more general nature, we also have those that propose “the end of abuse in artistic exhibitions” the “prohibition of teaching the ideology of gender in schools, the submission of the child to the learning about sexuality” and the “drug test for enrollment and re-enrollment in public universities” (CARVALHO FILHO: 2019).

One of the most recent authoritarian instruments used, with a legal veneer, to achieve university autonomy and democracy was the appointment, by the President of the Republic, of Rectors who do not appear in the triple list of candidates for the position, drawn up by the university community, or, in them figure, having negligible representativeness.

The report by the Truth Commission of the ANDES-Sindicato Nacional records that “by the beginning of September, Bolsonaro had appointed, denying the aforementioned representativeness criteria, until then accepted by the federal government, at least 12 Rectors of Federal Universities and 3 from Federal Institutes of Technology or Technical Schools” (COMMISSION … 2020). The nominee for the Rectory of UFPB, in November 2020, received only 5% of the votes and his name did not appear on the triple list drawn up by the UFPB University Council.

It is worth questioning the legality of these appointments, as the triple list was designed to provide legal support for the appointment of Rectors endowed with effective representativeness. Indeed, it is not conceivable to accept the appointment of managers who are not endowed with it. Proceeding differently, the constitutional principle that enshrines democratic management in public universities would be seriously violated, as this type of management cannot have as its origin a spurious appointment, devoid of representativeness.

The attack on university autonomy, launched by Bolsonaro against the Federal University of Pelotas, generated an unprecedented and ingenious response to the nomination of the runner-up on the triple list as Rector of that institution. Instead of resigning from her appointment, or accepting the exclusive exercise of her mandate, the second-place candidate decided to adopt a co-management system, informally sharing the position of Rector with the first-place candidate.

This way of “counter-attacking the coup leaders in Brasília and Pelotas” not only backfired, but also contributed to the mobilization of the university community in defense of its autonomy, under the aegis of participatory democracy (CRANCIO:2021 ).

But the federal government did not give up and decided to forward, on February 7, 2021, a letter in which it asks for measures to “prevent and punish party-political acts in federal public educational institutions”, and then immediately reversed itself due to a recommendation of the MPF not to curb political acts in universities (MPF recommends…2021). This attempt surfaced at the same time that information emerged that the Comptroller General of the Union (CGU) had opened an investigation process against two university professors at UFPEL: Pedro Hallal, former Rector of UFPEL, and Eraldo Pinheiro, current Pro- Rector of Culture at ADUFPEL, accused of “disrespectful manifestation in contempt of President Bolsonaro”.

Fearing that the lawsuit filed against them by the CGU could result in their dismissal from UFPE, these professors signed a Term of Adjustment of Conduct (TAC), which “prohibits them from making any kind of political manifestation at the university“, in addition to subjecting them to humiliating obligation to take a course on ethics in the public service (PROFESSOR…2021).

Given the events that took place, was signing the TAC with the CGU the best defense strategy? We understand that not, both for substantive reasons, of a legal nature, and strategic, of a political nature. From a legal point of view, the process brought by the CGU is devoid of consistency, as it is alleged that there is an infringement of art. 117 of Federal Law 8.112, which prohibits Union servants from “promoting expressions of appreciation or disapproval within the department’s premises”.

Inept claim, as it is an infraconstitutional norm that cannot override university autonomy, enshrined in the text of the Brazilian Magna Carta. As we have already seen, the unanimous judgment of the STF, in a clear way, enshrines full freedom of expression in academic settings. Therefore, the discussion about the violation or not of the article of the federal law in question is not relevant, being the argument of the non-violation of this law, the one in which prof. Hallal, in an interview with Folha de São Paulo, bases his defense, devoid of political or legal interest (DECLARAÇÕES:2021).

The most suitable defense for Professor Hallal, the one that would give more strength to the guarantee of freedom of expression, would be the denunciation of the arbitrariness committed by the government, betting on the mobilization of his category, and of society, to annul the lawsuit filed against him and prevent the dissemination of discretion in other universities. Indeed, it was the broad and negative social repercussions achieved by the arbitrary punishment of the two UFPEL professors that made the government back down. Those who teach, when threatened, should not seek to resolve the issue in personal terms, as they end up legitimizing the spurious legislation in which they are framed.

If, in one way or another, we temporize, the flank will be open to new attacks by Bolsonarist Torquemadas. They would be encouraged to repeat, taking into account that they will have the support and dozens of new Rectors appointed by the current tenant of the Planalto. This is a vital issue for the university. If the government succeeds in curbing teachers with the acceptance, in practice, of its arbitrary measures, freedom of expression will be definitively violated, conditio sine qua non for the existence of a university worthy of the name.

We end with the record of another step in the neo-fascist scale of repression of teachers. In the case in kind, an unprecedented act, hitherto unthinkable, practiced on June 16, 2021 against the Associação dos Professors of the Federal University of Paraíba (ADUF-PB) of that institution by the illegitimate Rector (his name did not even appear on the triple list of candidates to the Rectory!). It is a threat of judicial eviction from the entity, – installed in its Centro de Vivencia da UFPB 42 years ago for political reasons, disguised as a collection of the entity’s alleged millionaire debt – thesis contested by the directors of the ADUF and other representative entities of the community university (RECTOR… 2021).

Its representativeness is undeniable, but it will be necessary to bet on new and creative forms of mobilization and on the active solidarity of the entire category of university professors to face this indecent attempt to destroy the means available to them to resist the neo-fascist escalation.

To conclude, we make our own the words of Henri Acselrad, when highlighting the importance of intellectual work, of “theoretical militancy” as a factor of individual awareness and social transformation: “Helping society to think is also a means of helping society to breathe, the energy and intelligence needed to confront the enemies of intelligence and democracy. When those in power call freedom the threat to freedom, call democracy the opposite of democracy, the use of words implodes from within, subordinating itself to the logic of violence, the full expression of authoritarianism. The social scientist is, in his public dimension, called to 'induce a change in the moral climate of the debate, so that aggression as an unjust punishment of peoples or individuals is avoided, as a norm for all and not for a chosen few” .

* Rubens Pinto Lyra, PhD in Law (Politics and State area), he is Professor Emeritus at UFPB.

Originally published in Rubens Pinto Lyra. Bolsonarism: ideology, psychology, politics and related topics (Ed. of CCTA/UFPB).


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CRANCIO, Fernanda. UFPEL will have management shared by a pair of Rectors from this Friday. Commerce Newspaper. Porto Alegre (RS). 8.1.2021.

DECLARATIONS by Bolsonaro and a minister also give rise to proceedings, says censored professor. Folha de São Paulo, Sao Paulo, 5 Mar. 2021.

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PFDC files representation against course at UFRGS “the 2016 coup and the new conservative wave in Brazil”. Social Communication Consultancy. 22 Feb. 2018.

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UFABC PROFESSORS are denounced for holding a book launch event with an interview with Lula. Combate 25 Jul. 2020.

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UNB PROFESSOR defends the “2016 coup” course after criticism from MEC. The Globe, Rio de Janeiro, 24 Feb. 201

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VELASCO, Murilo. Public Prosecutor's Office of Goiás filed a Public Civil Action requesting the suspension of a course at UFG. Globo 20 Apr. 2018.

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