Between the cross and the rojão

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Rafael Alves*

Provisional Measure no.o 914 – which alters the process of choosing the heads of Federal Universities and Institutes – was edited in a hurry on New Year's Eve to meet as little resistance as possible.

New data on Provisional Measure n.o 914, which alters the selection process for directors of universities, federal institutes and Colégio Pedro II, was published in a report by Caio Spechoto on the website Power 360.

The definition given above to the MP is euphemistic, since we can also, more sincerely, say that it attacks not only university autonomy, but also the democratic process itself, since it extinguishes elections for principals, ends voting parity, establishes a triple list to the Federal Institutes, which, according to their law of creation, chose their deans by direct and joint vote of the community, in a clear intention to intervene in the choice of deans of these institutions, since in the first year of office the government disrespected the will of the academic community in several nominations, choosing the least voted candidate, as the third on the list for the Federal University of Ceará, with only 4,61% of the votes, or cases in which the nominee was not even on the triple list.

The anti-democratic characteristics of the measure were pointed out by me on another occasion, in an article entitled “At Christmas, crucified education”, a title that alludes to the fact that the MP was published on December 24, Christmas Eve. And it is to this point that I return now with the information brought by Caio Specoto.

His report reveals Planalto's haste in publishing the provisional measure. The Subcommittee of Legal Affairs (SAJ), responsible for legally evaluating the government's proposals, only manifested itself on December 27, three days after the publication of the measure. And, moreover, the manifestation is precisely that the proposal “was received without enough time for formal analysis”!

Unless grammatical errors have become official practice – which has been recurrent in publications by the MEC and the Minister of Education, as even the Jornal Nacional reported – the haste can be seen even in the SAJ newsroom, which even signed three days later and informing that there was no time to analyze it, it presents several agreement errors in the text.

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The fact that the PM was published on Christmas Eve immediately makes one think that it had the intention of encountering the least possible resistance, considering the parliamentary recess and the subsequent vacation period in educational institutions. But it also allows inferring the government's intention to interfere in as many appointments as possible during the term of the MP.

I say “during the validity of the MP”, because, as is known, a provisional measure has the force of law for a period of 120 days, during which time it must receive approval from Congress. Two MPs are about to “lapse” in February, seen by Congress as measures of retaliation by the government, as reporting by Marlla Sabino and Emily Behnke: the MP that deals with the issuance of student ID cards and the one that exempts the publication of public notices in newspapers.

In addition to the explicitly anti-democratic character and the lack of urgency for a provisional measure, it is still in disagreement with several legal provisions. As points to IFSP Official Note, the largest Federal Institute in the country: 

“MP 914/2019 violates the Constitution in its Article 207, which determines that “universities enjoy didactic-scientific, administrative and financial and asset management autonomy”, contrary to the Law of Guidelines and Bases of Education, no. 9394/1996 , which establishes the principle of “democratic management of public education” in its 3rd article, as well as the Law for the Creation of Federal Institutes, No. 11.892/2008, which, in addition to making them equivalent to universities in terms of autonomy and and Extension, specifies the process of choosing its rectors and campus directors in a democratic and equal way in its articles 12 and 13.”

Now, it is to be expected that Congress, at the very least, fails to appreciate the matter, as it did in the two examples above, deviating from a theme that has already mobilized not only the academic community but also various sectors of society that perceive the authoritarian bias . Even so, the government has the ability to interfere in the process of choosing deans and directors for the period in which the MP has the force of law.

And here is the oddity. As O Globo reported in reporting by Renata Mariz, eight universities and nine institutes have a change of dean scheduled for the period, but all these institutions have already carried out their consultation processes, which, according to the MP itself and confirmation from the MEC, release them from the new rules.

It is clear that the measure itself is unjustifiable and needs to be returned by Congress, made null by the STF – the rapporteurship that is with Minister Rosa Weber –, and the date of its symbolic and inopportune publication, but what I am calling attention to is why the rush to publish the MP so that it is valid in a period when there are no processes for choosing rectors that it can reach?

Is this a calculation error? I doubt. A bet that Congress makes a bill? 'Go glue'. Making Education Institutions waste more time, as has been happening with each new requirement or budget cut, which complicate managers' lives, make internal processes difficult and sometimes unfeasible? Likely. To contribute to the illness of federal servants?

Maybe a little bit of everything.

Eliane Brum, evaluates in an article entitled “Sick of Brazil”, who “subjected to a daily life dominated by self-truth, a phenomenon that converts the truth into a personal choice and, therefore, destroys the possibility of truth, Brazilians have become ill. Mental illness, which also results in a drop in immunity and physical symptoms, since the body is one”.

Based on reports collected from psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, cardiologists, among others, the reporter notes that a current extensive picture of heart problems, extreme anxiety and depression is linked to recent political polarization, incitement to hatred and worsening unemployment and instability. It highlights a social media post by psychiatrist Fernando Tenório, in which he reports the symptoms of a patient and attests: “he has symptoms of exhaustion that lead to anxiety. What is the diagnosis for this? Brazil. Got sick from Brazil. If I had any power I would suggest this new diagnosis to the DSM (psychiatry's manual of mental disorders). Getting sick in Brazil is the most prevalent disease”.

Education professionals already have a higher incidence of this type of disorder than other segments. A study from the Union of Official Teaching Teachers of the State of São Paulo (Apeoesp) revealed that 27% of the 936 teachers interviewed in the state stated that they had withdrawn from the classrooms, with depression being the main reason reported (57%). More recently, one search online survey carried out by Associação Nova Escola with more than five thousand educators in 2018, pointed out that 66% of teachers had already had to leave work for health reasons, with anxiety (68%), stress and headaches being among the main problems (63%) and insomnia (39%). Second Ferreira-Costa and Pedro-Silva, in an article from 2019 (pro-positions vol. 30), “teaching has currently become a profession that produces illness”.

Now, in addition to the illness present among educators linked to working conditions, in addition to the illness in Brazil reported by Eliane Brum, which affects the population in general, we have this new modality, named in a report by Brazil of Fact as “institutional harassment”.

Nara Lacerda tells us in the recently published article that “federal public servants face a wave of psychological illnesses in the face of certain statements and actions by the federal government. Unlike moral harassment, the so-called institutional harassment is not directed at individuals or small groups and is now the subject of study and analysis by specialists in occupational health, lawyers and representatives of the categories”.

The text highlights situations such as when the Minister of Economy disqualifies the technical work carried out by the IBGE, the defense of the privatization and extinction of state-owned companies still in the presidential campaign, the pressure on the Correios, Infraero and Casa da Moeda, the frequent attacks by the president himself on the Ibama and Instituto Chico Mendes, or when INPE is denied the authority to produce data on deforestation and its employees are embarrassed by being called subversive.

The report does not enter the field of education, but in this field the material of so-called institutional harassment would be plentiful. The head of the department, who should defend and promote Federal Educational Institutions, has already justified budget cuts, as the institutions make a “shamble”, called teachers from federal institutions “the fattest zebra” when he opined that they earn a lot and accused universities from having “extensive marijuana plantations” and developing synthetic drug laboratories.

The president himself says that “absurd things have been happening given university autonomy” and, in the face of protests against cuts in education, he calls students “useful idiots” who “don’t even know the formula for water” and serve as a “mass of maneuver” for “a smart minority that makes up the nucleus of federal universities”. And this despite the fact that the quality indices of the Federal Educational Institutions are high, as demonstrated in “Federal superiority, really”.

The list of examples would be long and add to it the whole context of “school without a party”, accusation of “indoctrination” and the lack of academic freedom – another euphemism, because it goes well beyond that to be careful to talk about gender, evolution or that the Earth is flat.

And there is this other modality of stimulating the illness of federal Education servants, the sequence of MPs, ordinances and other bureaucracies that come to destabilize, suffocate with superfluous work, withdraw resources, demotivate.

Even if MP 914 expires without affecting any electoral process – which, I stress, we should not wait, but demand Congress and the STF to have it nullified – it will have fulfilled its role of taking time from the academic community, of reaching it at the same time. envision having leaders appointed by this government, losing the processes of democratic choice won. It will have contributed to the illness resulting from the perception of the absurdity of its own content.

And if this was published on Christmas Eve, let us remember that shortly thereafter, on December 31, Ordinance No.o 2.227, which “deals with the procedures for removal from the headquarters and the country and granting per diems and tickets on national and international trips, on business, within the scope of the Ministry of Education”.

The ordinance makes it difficult for professors and researchers to participate in “fairs, forums, seminars, congresses, symposiums, working groups and other events”, as it requires new bureaucracy and control, even when participation takes place with free leave. Impressively, it limits the participation of civil servants to “a maximum of two representatives for events in the country and one representative for events abroad, per unit, individual body or related entity”.

Evidently, scientific events will be harmed, as well as researchers and the progress of their work. The ordinance points to the dismantling of national networks, composed of groups and research centers, and isolation of Brazil in relation to international networks. It even contradicts the analysis of productivity imposed on professors and researchers, as well as on graduate programs.

Considering only MP 914 of December 24th and Ordinance 2.227 of December 31st, if Education was crucified at Christmas, the production of knowledge was hit by a rocket in the New Year.

*Rafael Alves Professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of São Paulo – IFS

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