About to Lose my Teaching Job

Erasmo Calzadilla
Erasmo Calzadilla

Something convinced me to recount the conflict that caused me to leave the university classroom as a philosophy professor. I am raising some of the points here, but not all of them, only because I do not wish to affect the next steps of my struggle. Likewise, decency prevents me from speaking openly about these problems.

As I’ve said earlier, I was fired this past January. The reasons initially presented by the administration were very different from those that finally had me removed. What happened was that I, as a professor, and a group of students sat down in the grass of my institution -with the permission of the head of the department- to discuss and converse about Marxist thinkers.

This either raised a lot of sincere concern (keeping in mind that it is not common that discussions like this occur without the direct control of political organizations), or the administration was simply waiting to dismiss me with any excuse, which they found here.

Those students and I were called in to attend a single and unexpected meeting with all of the executive staff of the university where I work. There, we were told that our meetings had been inappropriate because they had not been arranged through the official channels that are prepared to direct any interest in philosophy, politics or other school matters.

In short, we were being taken to task because we had met without the permission of anyone and had left the bureaucracy outside of our gatherings.

Two days later I was called in to be informed of the decision to fire me, but this time the pretext was knowledge of my counterrevolutionary activity in the classroom. I was asked to leave for the good of all, but I decided to take up my fight since I felt innocent and owed no one.

A few weeks later I was officially informed of my dismissal, but the reason cited this time was the non-fulfillment of the study plan. This was done without having reviewed a single class with me concerning the accusation in question; the firing was instead based on questions that a committee of professors posed to my students.

Many in our country believe that to understand philosophy means to be able to repeat the answers that interpreters of Marx have supplied to questions that they themselves have asked. If that was what they queried asked my students (and I’m certain that it was), my students would have had difficulty responding “correctly,” since what I tried to do throughout my entire tenure was to avoid this rote method, which -in my estimation- runs counter not only to Marxism, but to all philosophy.

I appealed to the Employment Justice Agency, which carried out a kind of a trial at the workplace, but it didn’t rule in my favor. Because it is among my rights, I then went to raise my case before the municipal court. This is the step where I am at now, waiting for the date of the hearing in which this time I will have the assistance of real lawyers.

I am not completely hopeless.

4 thoughts on “<em>About to Lose my Teaching Job</em>

  • I’m shocked to read that Erasmo has been fired. I take it there is no such thing as academic tenure at Cuban universities.

    You’re absolutely right Erasmo. Giving rote answers to questions is NOT philosophy. It’s not even theology. It’s fundamentalism.

  • I admire your perserverence, Erasmo! I hope you will win your case in municipal court, and be immediately reinstated. It sounds like the University authorities had already made up their minds and your dismissal was a fait acompli. Why are they all so fearful? It will be a real pity for your current and future students to loose such a fine teacher, one who really uses the Socratic method, rather than a pottage of dry and dusty soul-killing rehetoric.
    What about your colleagues? Have any of them supported you? Where is worker solidarity, including the solidarity of intellectual workers? Are they too affraid of loosing their jobs? I think they are mistaken, as were the cultural commissars of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when they purged so many of the first generation of the Revolution’s best poets, artists and writers of those times simply because they wouldn’t fit into some sort of absurd ideological straight-jacket on what should constitute Revolutionary art and literature. Although what is happening to you is sad and depressing, I am also hopeful that you have a real chance to redress these injustices. As Bob Dylan once sang, “The times, they are a’changin.”

  • Best of luck in your case, fella. Clearly it is the bureaucracy in this University which needs to be called on the carpet — not independently-acting staff or students. Socialism is not advanced with stalinist methods. Stalinist methods have, in fact, been the DEATH of socialism — everywhere. And stalinism in the cuban bureaucracy (which, oddly enough, seems to always end up in a cozy accommodation with capitalism, everywhere) WILL be the death of the Cuban Revolution.

    So don’t back down — if you can take it.

  • Erasmo,

    Sometime in my life I discovered that I had a logic, and my wife had a different logic.
    When I accepted this truism our marriage greatly improved.

    One of the questions I learned is: ¿How do you cope in a Straight Jacket? The answer is you don’t wiggle.


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