viernes, 19 de octubre de 2012

Carta a lista Forbes

I am Enrique García, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Zaragoza, Spain.  I hope you will read on, because I wish to tell you about a problem at my university, a problem that is seriously hindering the cause of education there.

Zaragoza is a city of 700,000 in northern Spain, about 90 minutes from either Madrid or Barcelona via our high-speed train, the AVE.  The city was founded on the banks of the Ebro River more than 2,000 years ago by the legions of Caesar Augustus.

The University of Zaragoza was established in 1542, less than 40 years after Columbus’s last voyage of discovery.  It has a long and respected history.  A School of Education was incorporated into the university structure in 1970, since then evolving from a College to the bonafide university Faculty that we have had since 2001.  Our Faculty of Education attends to a range of educational issues, extending from teacher formation at all educational levels to the investigation of psychopedagogical questions.  We grant both masters-level and doctoral degrees. 

In spite of the recency of our status as Faculty, we strive hard to be the equal of any such Faculty among Spanish universities.  We pay as much attention to the education of our undergraduates and graduate students as we do to international research.  We conduct our own educational research, work in cooperation with Latin American universities, attend conferences with educators from both American and European universities, and participate in the Erasmus Student Exchange program.  Currently 4% of our student body is drawn from countries outside of Spain.

Our problem has been space—or lack thereof.  We have lived to a great extent in space borrowed from other departments.  The offices of our 174 professors must be shared in some cases by up to 10 people.  We have no adequate space for meeting with groups of students or for tutoring students.  We presently conduct classes in six far-flung spaces that other university departments provide for us.

These structural insufficiencies—severe hindrances to the training of teachers as well as to many other aspects of our educational mission—were becoming apparent in the late 1990s.

Realizing the need to provide more space to the new Faculty of Education, university officials considered a number of possibilities, and finally, in 2006, a construction project that would have situated us in a very fine building at the heart of the university campus was publicly presented.

But then Expo 2008—held in Zaragoza—came along, and because the construction of this international showpiece was given the highest governmental priority, the building of our new facility was put off to a later date.

In 2009 I was chosen to be Dean of the Faculty of Education, and, after a very serious effort, I and my colleagues succeeded in getting the university finally to put the construction of our building out to bid.

In March 2010 the contract was awarded to Sacyr-Ideconsa, and work began three months later.  The project was to be completed by March 2012.  But during this period the international monetary crisis began to heat up.  Then Spain fell into a banking crisis to the point that in June 2012 the government was forced ask for an international bailout of its banks.  Construction ground to a halt.  Now the university has a cash-flow problem and, as a result, has been unable to move forward with the construction of our building.  It stands unfinished in the heart of our campus (see enclosed photo), with no promise of construction being resumed in the near future.

What does this mean for us?  It means that the dream of 3,000 people who wish not only to work in a worthy and dignified profession, but also to study and train in dignified surroundings, has been hindered, if not frustrated.  It means that the place where the initial formation of professionals who would one day be the educational engine driving the development of the Spanish economy has been left in limbo. 

The enclosed photo may make it appear that the project is nearly finished, but this is an illusion.  Several million euros worth of construction remains to be accomplished before the facility can be used. 

I’ve knocked for assistance at more doors than I can count.  Of course my principal efforts have been with the political leaders and administrators whose job it is to see this project through to completion, but their response has been disappointing.

I am therefore sending you this letter to ask your help in seeing this important project through to its long-delayed conclusion.  In return for your partial assistance with this project, the university would be happy to dedicate a portion of the building in your name.  In return for your full assistance in completing this project, the university would very gladly name the building itself in your honor.

Possibly you will consider me a shameless beggar, knocking at the wrong door.  But I assure you that I am forced to do so by the growing lack of interest in education among our political leaders.  Education is a soft target for budget-cutters.  But it’s the wrong target.  We are training the men and women who will themselves train the leaders of the future, and at the moment we are forced to do so under conditions that are totally inappropriate for a society that calls itself developed and cultured.
Thank you for your attention and for the time you spent in reading this somewhat lengthy letter.  It was lengthy only because I felt it necessary to explain the reasons that have driven me to ask for your assistance.
I would be most happy to give you more detailed information upon request.

Yours very truly,

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