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Brazil: Humanities Students Claim Right to Study Abroad

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages except when otherwise noted.]

The announcement to exclude the humanities in the new government notice outlying the official rules for application to the federal program to send Brazilian university students abroad, Ciência Sem Fronteiras (Science Without Borders), published November 20, 2012, infuriated a number of students who have created an online campaign to reverse the decision.

The new government notice bars application by students from at least 24 university disciplines, 20 of which correspond to the humanities (including publicity and advertising, journalism, media studies, digital and systems and media, information studies, information management and documentation, and others). The government program focuses on technology, but, until now, the “creative industry” category provided a way for students of the humanities to apply for the scholarship.

Cristiane Nascimento and Davi Lira reported to one of São Paulo's largest daily newspapers, the Estadão:

A justificativa é que esses cursos no Brasil não têm lacunas a serem preenchidas como os de Ciências Exatas, Engenharias e áreas tecnológicas e, portanto, não precisariam ser complementados com o estudo em universidades do exterior.

The justification is that these disciplines in Brazil do not present voids that need to be filled like the exact sciences, engineering and technology do; they therefore do not need to be complemented with studies in foreign universities.

In response, students created a Facebook group on November 21 entitled “Ciência COM Fronteiras” (Science WITH Borders), which comprises more than 2,640 members as of the publication of this article. The page's creators are attempting to pressure the Science Without Borders Program to revert its decision.

The Science With Borders Facebook page

The Science With Borders Facebook page

Larissa Goulart writes on the page:

Acho que vocês deviam começar um movimento pela inclusão de TODOS os cursos, não só desses que foram excluídos, mas também os das humanas que NUNCA foram incluídos e pela amor de dells não me venham com essa história de que ciências humanas não são ciências.

I think you need to start a movement to include ALL disciplines, not only those that were excluded, but also those disciplines within the humanities that were NEVER before included… and, for God's sake, do not start with the argument that the humanities is not a science.

Kátia Flavia comments:

Ah gente. Que país maravilhoso. Já não bastasse os sem terras, sem teto, desempregados, os pobres, a periferia, os excluídos digitais, agora mais uma miserável categoria produzida especialmente pelo nosso maravilhoso país: Os excluídos da Ciência. Tem coisas que a gente faz muito bem mesmo.

What a wonderful country, folks. It's not enough that we have the landless movement, the homeless movement, the unemployed, the poor, the geographically marginalized in the outlying slums [and] the digitally abandoned, but we now have one more miserable category designed especially for our wonderful country: those excluded from the sciences. There are some things where we just excel.

Fernando Strongren proposes going further:

Uma página como essa não pode se portar como um point de ‘bebês chorões’, que só reclamam que estão desmamados. É preciso apontar argumentos que mostrem a importância do desenvolvimento do homem – entendido como fim das Ciências Humanas – para o desenvolvimento do país. Só assim deixaremos claro como esse processo de abandono das humanidades é um absurdo!

A page like this cannot act like a meeting point for cry babies who start whining only when they are being weaned. Arguments need to be made to show the importance of humankind's development – viewing this as the ultimate aim of the humanities – for the country's development. This is the only way we will make it clear that abandoning the humanities is absurd!

An article published by the movement on November 26 on Facebook makes the the group's objectives clear:

Cover photo on the Science With Borders Facebook page

Cover photo on the Science With Borders Facebook page

O que de fato nos incomodou e nos motivou a recorrer à justiça foram os mais de 1.100 casos de alunos de humanas e saúde homologados nas duas chamadas passadas e a mudança repentina nessa atual, sem que nenhum sinal de alteração tenha sido feito. (…) Assim, centenas de estudantes tiveram gastos com exames de proficiência, cursos preparatórios, passaportes, passagens para outras cidades onde os supracitados exames seriam realizados, etc.

What truly bothered us and motivated us to seek justice were the over 1,100 cases of health and humanities students included in the last two application processes and the sudden change in this application process, without any notice that the change had been put into effect…. Thus, hundreds of students spent money on proficiency tests, prep courses, passports, trips to other cities to take said tests, etc.

The same article further states that the group has gathered “approximately 36 pages of evidence from people whose participation in the selection process was a financial encumbrance,” and raises the following questions:

1. Como o governo espera lidar com os estudantes que investiram no idioma para tentarem a bolsa?

2. O que torna os alunos homologados para o início do ano diferentes de nós? Sorte? E onde fica o princípio da isonomia do art. 5?

3. Por que a decisão de nos excluir não foi avisada logo na abertura do edital desse ano (que vale para as duas entradas: janeiro e agosto/setembro de 2013)? É legal alterar dessa forma um edital enquanto ele ainda está em vigor?

1. How does the government plan to deal with students who invested money to learn a foreign language in order to apply for the scholarship?

2. What makes those students who were allowed to apply earlier in the year different from us? Luck? And what of the principle of legal equality granted under article 5 [of the Constitution]?

3. Why was the decision to exclude [students of the humanities] not publicized when the government notice was published this year (which is valid for both application dates: January and August/September 2013)? Is it legal to change a government notice in this manner while is still in effect?

And it ends with:

Vocês podem revolucionar as descobertas na saúde, na robótica, na ecologia e tudo quanto é mais ciência, mas não se esqueçam: nós revolucionamos o pensamento e sem ele, nenhuma sociedade democrática se sustenta.

You can revolutionize discoveries in health, robotics, ecology and all that is science but do not forget: we revolutionize thought, and no democratic society is sustained without thought.

As promised, on Monday, November 26, students personally submitted “the signed petition, the open letter signed by the students and proof of expenses dispersed by people who had prepared for the application based on the government notice” to CAPES (Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Higher Education) in Brasília. A “temporary injunction or writ of prevention to suspend the selection process until this matter of excluded disciplines is resolved” was also filed. A petition started on Avaaz, addressed to the federal government, the Ministry of Education and the CAPES already includes nearly 2,950 signatures. A Twitter campaign was also planned for Monday, November 26, 7:00 p.m. under the hashtag #CienciaComFronteiras [ScienceWithBorders].

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