Thursday, February 7, 2013

Universidad Nacional De Cordoba - A Shocking Perspective

Legalizing my high school diploma and transcript is still months away, but since I've decided to attend the National University of Cordoba (UNC), I decided to visit the campus. 

Anthropology Building
At first glance, the anthropology building at the National University of Cordoba (UNC) looks like an abandoned building in 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”, which means, “If the Pope was a woman, abortion would be legal.”  
Despite the outward appearance of some of the buildings, UNC is considered a renowned university, which has been around 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 assembly 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 when 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 can't 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 accustomed to going to school in the states where you had at least 2 or 3 other professors you could choose from per subject. 
Classroom in the Anthropology building
Since I plan to attend the UNC in 2014 for a National Translator degree, I thought I’d go see what the classes were like. But instead of going to the language school, I visited an anthropology class instead. This was a big mistake, but I’ll get to 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 unfavorably casual. 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 health care, and a library containing over 200,000 books, DVDs, CDs, and magazines. Everything offered to students here seems like a sweet deal if you can get over the shock of UNC’s aesthetics.

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 of sorts 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 with career programs.

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 how students expelled 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 at 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 episodes of “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 an 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… IT'S 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 Argentinian), or gender.

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.

There’s much more to the 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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment