Thursday, February 7, 2013

Universidad Nacional De Cordoba - A Shocking Perspective


Anthropology Building
At first glance, the anthropology building at the National University of Cordoba (UNC) looks like an abandoned building on the bad part of town. Most of the graffiti on the walls are politically motivated; demanding change and women’s rights, or civil rights. One such example of this was a graffiti slogan on the wall outside of a building which said, “Si el Papa fuera mujer, el aborto seria ley”, translated to, “If the Pope was a woman, abortion would be the law.” 
Despite the outward appearance of some of the buildings, UNC is considered a renowned university, which has been erect for 400 years. People from all over central and South America attend here because the university offers a free education where most other countries do not. Still, you’d think the government would do more to preserve this landmark from falling into the hands of vandals and malcontents. When I officially enroll I’d like to give the powers that be at the university some suggestions, but I doubt they’ll be very receptive to change.
Speaking of the powers that be, UNC has a government assembly which is comprised of teachers (called docentes), students, and administration. This government is much more powerful than the student council at the colleges I attended back home in Florida. This government seems to be able to bring about change swiftly should a majority rule in favor of that change.

The downside is that while you can vote for change and choose your classes or major, you cannot pick your professor. By this I mean that if you want to study introduction to philosophy but you hate the teacher, you’re screwed. You either take the class or choose another major. This may come as a shock if you’ve grown accustom to going to school in the states where you had at least 2 or 3 other teachers you could choose from to do a class.

Classroom in the Anthropology building
Since I plan to attend the UNC in 2014 for a National Translator degree in English, I thought I’d go see what the classes were like. So I visited an anthropology class. This was a big mistake, but I’ll get into that later. The classroom is relatively large. There must have been about a hundred desk/chairs. The walls could use a little sprucing up, and by little I mean a lot. They do however have an audio/visual projector which they used for the classroom presentations.
The dress code for teachers seems quite lax. One teacher was dressed like he was going to a Zeppelin concert and the other looked like she had just rolled out of bed and forgotten to change out of her pajamas.

Benefits
Because it is the first week of the term (each term is one full year), the administration visits the classrooms and discusses all the benefit programs that come with being a student, and that includes a very affordable lunch menu, free healthcare, and a library containing over 200,000 books, DVDs, CDs, and magazines. If you can get over the shock of UNC’s aesthetics, what they offer students is a sweet deal.

Scholarships
Scholarships are also available. Why do they need a scholarship when the university is free? It’s to cover the cost of books and/or copies of textbooks and handouts. At most, the scholarships are about 1000 pesos per year simply because you probably won’t even need that much.

Work-Study Program
They also offer a work study program for students who need a part time job while studying, or for those who need experience in the field which they are studying for. This varies by career program.

Socio-Political Discussions In Class
The first thing I noticed while participating in a group discussion was that I had no idea what was going on.  This was supposed to be an anthropology class but everyone seemed so focused on politics and how it relates to the universities in Argentina over the past 100 years or so.

The Reformation Of The Universities Of 1918
The topic of the “Reformation of the Universities of 1918” was discussed way too much. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what this reformation is, I will explain briefly. It turns out that this reformation was the students way of expelling the church from the university, who until that point, was enforcing what topics should be discussed (similar to the military dictatorship several decades later). The church wouldn’t even allow the teaching of science in the universities. Until the reformation, neither students nor instructors were allowed to voice personal opinions or teachings.

Classroom Observation
My observation of the class suggests that socio-political discussions are the norm at the university regardless of what the subject matter might be. It was difficult to follow or appreciate without a basic knowledge or understanding of the topics and history of Argentina. The instructors (there were four in the classroom at the same time) kept discussing the reformation to death, and despite some attempts by other students to deviate to a different topic, the instructors drew everyone back to the reformation. I’m going to have nightmares about the reformation for a week.

One of the teachers insinuated that anthropological analysis is not scientific but rather a subjective analysis. Anthropology was never a subject I pursued but I’ve seen enough “BONES” to know that a scientific analysis is vital to anthropology. Maybe I’m wrong. You decide and comment.

One student, a woman, age 47, was the only one that actually made any sense to me. She questioned why politics needed to be introduced and discussed in the anthropology class. I agreed with her, but not many others in the classroom did. She was quickly shot down by the teachers and students (BUT NOT LITERALLY … JUST A FIGURE OF SPEECH).

One thing I can say without question is that every student in that class was knowledgeable, regardless of age, origin (not everyone in the class was Argentinean), or gender.

Conclusion
After spending 4 hours listening in on the class I realized that I made a mistake and should have visited a class that was related to my field of study. This anthropology class did not peak my interest, and I felt that the instructors completely missed their mark. I will be going to the language building soon to get permission to visit a class related to the English translator degree.

There’s much more to UNC than meets the eye. I’ve only seen a fraction of what they have to offer. So stay tuned. I’ll be posting more on the university in the near future.

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