UFBA – 75 years old

Image: Javier Gonzales


Opening Conference of the 7th. Congress of the Federal University of Bahia


The Federal University of Bahia has history and not just duration. It is our luck to exist even before we were born and above all to measure ourselves by what we are not yet (research to be done, classes not given, students we will still accept), never ceasing to live the turbulence of each time and always determined by the essential promise of knowledge and freedom. Each moment of our history has brought us a challenge of its own, in relation to which our community has sought to live up to the highest values ​​of academic training, in the day-to-day work of producing science, culture and art.

We forge our path through tradition, without this meaning inertia or simple reiteration. It could mean that tradition, in an institution like ours, which must exercise its autonomy and, at every moment, justify its right to existence, is never a mere given, nor should it be a fetter. On the contrary, the tradition of the Federal University of Bahia is just that which we, as a collective voice, reinvent every day, to fulfill a promise that unfolds beyond the facts and to make our people's dreams and brilliance come true. .

UFBA is not the same; its being is movement, and its time is always another time, of life and transformation. Our past flashes then as a challenge. And part of this challenge is the burden of a double deficit of representation and representativeness – a deficit that, if not overcome, could separate our institution both from the values ​​and practices of the international scientific community, and from the talent and presence of our people, with their strength and diversity. Tradition does not fetter us, but rather challenges us to overcome it, as we have a duty to remove from our past and our coexistence the marks of exclusion, backwardness and prejudice, so strong in our society.



We have the duty of criticism, at the same time that we answer for the best of our tradition. And that duty is imperative. We must thus praise our institution, giving it a benevolent and just look, capable of enlivening the highest values ​​in it, but we must never limit ourselves to mere apology, which usually replaces reflection with rhetoric and, in favor of propaganda , nullifies the thought, as if the institution should consent to all excesses simply to protect interests and not principles. In times like the present, without the exercise of criticism, we would run the risk of favoring even the absurdity of having a government that is not only mediocre, but dangerous. A government that poses as executioner of the institutions and public policies it should protect, being today a clear example of obscurantism and authoritarianism.

It is our duty, therefore, as public servants, as servants of a project that has a history and that only takes place in the long term, to show our strangeness and even our repudiation of everything that conspires against democratic soil, of everything that attacks knowledge and life, nature and culture. We only fulfill our duty when we denounce anyone who attacks science, puts the survival of communities at risk, compromises the evaluation of research, the funding of science and culture and, moreover, defiles civic duties of cordiality, courtesy, composure.

In particular, our identity and our autonomy are being attacked today. And they are attacked both in the most insidious way of suppressing resources, and in the most vile way of attacking our university communities, treated as if they were inept in the successive attacks on the exercise of their autonomy. In this scenario, many colleagues, with legitimate concerns and authentic dedication to the university, believe in dialogue and persist in achieving results, but as if we were only dealing with government officials incapable of dealing well with a crisis.

Dialogue is certainly a value and an obligation. We will never relinquish that duty. Unfortunately, however, reality is becoming increasingly harsh. The crisis is not an accident, it is configured today as a project. We can no longer ignore an explicit project to dismantle our institutions and public policies aimed at the common good. Rulers do not even hide their disdain for science, their contempt for culture, reaching the height of, without any shame, showing that they prefer weapons to books. And, by the way, when they seem to value the mastery of some knowledge, they indicate the purest ignorance of what universities are, since they ask questions (for example, how much is 7×8, what is the square root of 4 or the molecule of water) who are below even the high school level.

In such a scenario, some may be deluded. They will not, however, for lack of signs. We have an obligation of civility, no doubt. However, we cannot ignore the fact that we are at a limit, since we are confronted by rulers who never miss an opportunity to vent hatred on social networks and compromise the health of the public space, who express their mockery frankly and are not afraid to jeopardize achievements of decades, such as what they are doing now with the postgraduate evaluation processes by CAPES or as they have been doing through the progressive deconstruction of the research infrastructure in our universities.

Such attitudes end up leaving the country in shambles, while creating a culture of contempt or indifference towards education. In an environment deformed by obscurantism, it becomes a simple and commonplace accounting operation to practice successive budget cuts, such as the one we are now suffering, done without shame by the sectoral rapporteur of the 2022 Annual Budget Law Proposal, which has just been withdrawn from the proposal 300 million previously earmarked for higher education. This is equivalent to a cut in the universities' discretionary budget, for a year in which, on the contrary, they will need much more to face the challenge of returning to face-to-face activities.

In the case of UFBA, 8,6 million are being cut – of these, 2,2 million from student assistance. That is, 5,12% of our budget for 2022. The rapporteur can enunciate specious arguments to justify such a cut. However, by this gesture, he becomes only an accomplice and a servant of the current dismantling. It places itself, in a position of honor, among those who, in times of crisis, fail to opt for education, ignoring the lessons of nations that avoided the most serious crises by investing in the training of their people.

Indeed, we have never faced such a crisis. To the pandemonium of politics (rudeness, incivility, retrograde and authoritarian regression) came the pandemic, which aggravated the vulnerability of the most vulnerable and today already bequeaths us the terrifying figure of more than 616 thousand deaths. We are living in dark times, the time of cholera, of the virus now spread, which only makes the confrontation of cholera, the gallstone spilled in our public life even more uncertain.



However, nothing can take away the joy of celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Federal University of Bahia together. Each dean has its mark, its strength and its fragility. And the story of each rectory must be well reflected and always well told. At this moment, however, in which we are closing a truly national public act, initiating the UFBA Congress, we could not recover the entire history of 75 years. Certainly the great previous achievements, which are immense, can and should be noted. And it is our task to keep their memory, praising the great gestures of our predecessors. May everyone feel welcomed and honored here!

However, taking into account the limitation of speech, now grant us the most direct mention of our seven and a half years of management, as we also have the duty of a small balance, even if in quick brushstrokes, somewhat impressionistic. This is a rectory that hasn't found a day of respite, whether this is said both to criticize and in its favor. In particular, in an unprecedented scenario of budget deficit and now of successive budget cuts, in an environment never seen before of attacking the image of the institution, its categories, its life, its managers, we could not characterize our management by the results that could come from plentiful or even sufficient resources, nor were we able to mark it, as we would have liked, with the full affirmation of our best projects.

If they took away from us, however, the chance to make a great dean, through this bias, they gave us the opportunity, the hard occasion, to do something even more decisive and indeed much more difficult. We did, I believe, a necessary rectory. For this very reason, it was necessary to preserve its essential traits from our university. We then collectively uphold our principles. In other words, we were able to maintain the unity of our community, defend our autonomy and our values, with due pride and serenity. In essence, we can say, we did not flee the fight, but we also advanced in gestures and even, surprisingly, in achievements.

A detailed assessment of the management will be made in the appropriate place, but we can make a balance of our resistance here. We completed more than half of the previously unfinished works and, even with deep cuts, we fought to maintain the essentials of university life. Great is the pain and sacrifice to which we have been subjected, it is true. Despite all this, we created three new university units (the Institute of Science, Technology and Innovation, which will one day be installed on the Carlos Marighella campus in Camaçari, the Multidisciplinary Institute of Rehabilitation in Health and the Institute of Computing).

We maintained our quality in the most severe assessment by CAPES and INEP; we innovated with the Visiting Professor Notice, we were successful with our Capes Print, in our communication with Edgard Digital, with our Edufba (which maintains the impressive mark of more than one hundred books per year), in our resolutions (with Propap and the Propev, for example), in our welcome (with the implementation of the Ombudsman and the deepening of affirmative actions), in our understanding of the university (with Ufba in numbers and other instruments), in our relationship with social movements. With great responsibility, we suspended face-to-face activities in March 2020; with similar responsibility, we decided to resume face-to-face activities.

And all of this was only possible because management coincided today with the institutional vitality of our councils and relied on the harmony of our university units. Thus, in these seven and a half years, we have hosted the World Social Forum and the UNE Biennial of Culture, held the Crisis and Democracy Seminar, the Mutations cycle and our various acts in defense of public education, such as the Education Against Barbarism Act (which replicate now), the two editions of UFBA Cultural, in addition to the various and various events of scientific and cultural entities. And today, with impressive numbers, we hold our seventh UFBA Congress.

We also react to multiple threats. We rejected “Future-se” in our congregations and in our University Council, just as we now reject “Reuni Digital”. We fight cuts and contingencies. In short, we are fighting the good fight. We face, together and united, the rudeness of managers and their apparent politeness, which can become even more devastating and destructive. And we do it and we will always do it for the simple reason that it is our duty, because we have an obligation not to let the desert grow within us, nor that, for any apparent reason or eventual pragmatism, we can be servants or accomplices of the absurd.

Each rectory leaves a legacy, which expresses its community and its time. This will perhaps be ours – that of having sought, after all, to improve the quality of consensus and disagreement, knowing that it is up to a good manager to seek to balance interests, if legitimate, and defend interests, if institutional, without ever forgetting our values ​​and principles. Maybe because of gestures like that and even the nature of the public university, they accused us of turmoil, as you may remember – and we then celebrated our turmoil (UFBA and the other universities) in laboratories, in classrooms, on the university floor, in the streets and even in the clouds; We show the strength of the university in the quality of our teaching, research and extension, in the defense of the autonomy whose legitimacy derives from them, in the deep sense of our affirmative actions and in the reception of student assistance, fighting day by day to overcome the double deficit of representation and representativeness, with more knowledge and more democracy. In our politics and in our gestures, we show, to the four winds, our truth that we can indeed be the place of turmoil because we will never be the place of barbarism.

Long live the Federal University of Bahia!

Long live the public university!

*Joao Carlos Salles he is rector of the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) and former president of the National Association of Directors of Federal Institutions of Higher Education (Andifes).


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