I’ve previously commented in Havana Times about the “little problem” I had when I worked as a philosophy professor at INSTEC, a technical college here in Havana. It cost me my job and stained my record, hampering me from securing other employment.
I’m now returning to that issue to discuss the final ruling of the People’s Supreme Court (the highest level for appeals in cases like mine), which rendered its decision a few days ago.
The accusations leveled against me by the administration at INSTEC were absurd enough to cause one to die laughing. They held that I wandered about the school, that I treated my assistants poorly (I didn’t have any assistants), and that I enabled the entry of foreigners into restricted areas of the institution (with the “restricted area” being the lawn in front of the campus and the foreigner being a young Argentinean med school student who visited the campus frequently since he was the boyfriend of a student at the college).
The city court didn’t accept such nonsense; however, according to the official document that they provided me, they upheld the overall decision against me, considering such factors as:
– I had offended Marx and Marxism by asserting that philosophy is a tool.
– My students had poor grades (apparently the testimony given by the administration was more convincing than the exam dockets signed by a group of my fellow philosophy professors, which included the head of the department. Among my students there had not been a single failure)
As the appeal of my firing moved forward, such “evidence” —like the stages of a rocket— continued to be discarded and dropped to the ground. However the Supreme Court upheld a couple, just two, but these were sufficient to sustain the disciplinary measure. Below, I am citing an excerpt from the official ruling in which they stated the two “reasons” that were ultimately decisive.
“…the classes given did not correspond to the approved academic program. In addition, to meet with students from and outside the school to discuss topics that do not correspond to the study plan constitutes a serious violation of job discipline…”
These accusations are no less absurd than the previous ones. Is there a law that prevents teachers from meeting with students to discuss “topics that do not correspond to the study plan”? This goes without even mentioning the fact that these meetings were approved by the department head, who herself even participated in one of these meetings and praised me for the initiative.
Concerning my inability to adjust to the program, I admit that – partially. I was straying from the program while trying to fulfill an immanent philosophical priority, that of motivating critical and responsible reflection on questions that are urgent for life in this country and on the planet. This is almost impossible to achieve by respecting the current program titled “Philosophy and Society,” dictated by the ideologists of Central Committee of the Party.
The Party in Cuba is very fearful that its rosebuds might be misled. It’s necessary to witness with what readiness they’re become engaged and dished out punishment when someone proposes an independent initiative. However the burnt out teachers who have trudged around for almost a half century repeating the laws and categories of dialectical materialism, these are the ones they leave alone, or in other words, those who they’ll let die happily.
Such is one of the daily practices that have sunk this country. It will be necessary to sideline it as well as its promoters and their causes to get us out of this mess we’re in.
Note: “Philosophy and Society” is one of the substitutes for philosophy and is obligatory in all Cuban universities, though I believe they’ve now returned to calling it “Marxism Leninism.”