Inspection or persecution? Elisa Loncon’s sabbatical and university autonomy

Parliamentarians of National Renewal, a few days ago, requested information from the USACh to learn about the Sabbatical Year granted to Dr. Elisa Loncon by that house of studies. They also asked the Comptroller General of the Republic to rule on whether this constituted any form of lack of probity. Not so long ago other parliamentarians asked the same university for the list of courses on “gender ideology” that it taught, generating great concern in the university community. 
But what is it and what is the meaning of the sabbatical year, contemplated in practically all universities, at least in the Western world? The gap year is a permit granted to scholars who have attained the highest categories of academic career, and who have therefore made significant contributions to their discipline. In some of the most prestigious universities, the sabbatical year is a right that is applied every few years (five usually) so that the academic can carry out stages of an ongoing research or publicize the results of their work. It is one of the benefits that Dr. Luis Ernesto Cárcamo-Huechante, Chilean Mapuche from the town of Tralcao in the province of Valdivia, academic at the University of Austin, Texas, and before Harvard University, has had. It would not occur to anyone, much less members of the United States Congress, to object to this right granted to an academic who has met the requirements. 
Unfortunately, some of our honorables may believe that a sabbatical year is something like an undeserved year of rest and, worse, a political favor. The declared audit was thus transformed into disguised political harassment; while the sabbatical became something like a Sabbath, or a meeting of witches to be denounced and persecuted.
Defending the sabbatical year for academic purposes is essential in a university system like Chile’s, which has turned the university profession into a job of high demand and demands, and of scarce compensation. In the past, the most outstanding professionals considered it a privilege to teach at a university and often did not even charge their meager fees. Today the academic function has become professionalized and massified, a process that began in Chile during the first half of the twentieth century. And it is very good and it needs to be so.
Practically all the statutes or regulations of Chilean universities contemplate the figure of the sabbatical year. According to these regulations, dozens of sabbaticals are given every year, a large part, of course, in state universities. In none of these cases was information requested from the university authorities. The foregoing shows that it is a vulgar harassment against a person who rendered a great service to the Republic of Chile. Nothing less than being the first democratically elected president of an assembly or Constitutional Convention in the republican history of the country. It may be that for a majority of citizens the result has not been as expected, but that it fulfilled its obligations, there is no doubt. 
Elisa Loncon is an outstanding academic, she could even be described as outstanding. She is a tenured professor at an accredited university for 7 years. He has obtained two doctorates in prestigious universities, one Chilean and one European. She has also been a professor at PUC and invited by European and North American universities. He has published a significant number of articles and books, and participated in many research projects. He teaches undergraduate and prostrate. But the most relevant thing is that his work revolves around the Mapuche language and culture, subjects usually absent in university curricula and research. Surely in other countries of the world their contribution to the re-recognition of interculturality and research in languages that have been historically minorized and that are being displaced by the language of colonial origin would be valued and recognized. Nothing indicates that in Chile there will be an effort like the one made in Spain with Catalan, Basque or Galician, or with many minority languages in other European countries. 
In a country where cases of irregularities, corruption and fraud are revealed daily at the level of the State and regional governments, it is absurd that a couple of deputies consider it appropriate to request information to see if a sabTico awarded was adjusted to regulations, if the public money committed to the payment of salaries are well used and if any lack of probity was committed by the rector of the time. And in the meantime we never tire of reading about irregularities committed by parliamentarians. We believe that the parliamentarians in question will be able to find many other more urgent and important tasks for the benefit of citizens than persecuting a Mapuche academic for her trajectory of struggle in favor of both peoples, the Mapuche and the Chilean.  
Elisa Loncon responded and charged that this questioning was a product of racism. Without denying the dramatic reality of this phenomenon, which mainly affects indigenous people, people of African-American origin and migrants from Andean countries, we believe that this is not the axis of the problem. Here is a matter of obvious political harassment for the prominent role he played in the Constitutional Convention.  
For his part, the former rector of the USACh, Juan Manuel Zolezzi, ratified what was stated at the beginning: the granting of the sabbatical year to Dr. Loncon met all the requirements and procedures and that, in any case, she is a distinguished academic who will give lectures in the most prestigious universities of the different countries she will visit. Universities are, and must continue to be, autonomous projects at the service of knowledge and the country. For this reason, the law grants them academic, administrative and financial autonomy. Its statutes and regulations, once approved (by Congress in the case of state institutions), must be rigorously respected and supervised by the Superintendence of Higher Education and by the Comptroller General of the Republic. In them the broadest freedom of research and professorship, based on rational and scientific thought, must be cultivated. These are not privileges but minimum conditions for universities to function normally and contribute to society as a whole without political, religious, ethnic or ideological exclusions.  
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The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.

Original source in Spanish

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