President López Obrador launched an attack on Mexico’s most prestigious university on Thursday, asserting that it became “individualistic” during what he describes as the nation’s neoliberal period.
He told reporters at his regular news conference that the neoliberal period – 1982 to 2018 – was an era of “backwardness, looting … [and] manipulation.”
Two generations were adversely affected by the period, López Obrador said, adding that the National Autonomous University (UNAM) – which he attended in the mid-1970s – became “individualistic” and a “defender of neoliberal projects.”
“It lost its essence of training … professionals to serve the people,” he said.
“There are no longer the economists, sociologists, political scientists and lawyers of before. There are no longer constitutional law [courses], agrarian law is now history,” López Obrador said, lamenting the focus on commercial, civil and criminal law.
“It was a process of decadence,” he added. “Fortunately, we have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for the transformation [of Mexico] and completing the fourth transformation is possible, but it’s a process.”
The president’s remarks about UNAM triggered outpourings of support for the university.
Former rector José Narro said the university, recently ranked as the 105th best in the world, has always been committed to the wellbeing of the country.
“It has shown that time and again, with one president and the next,” he said in a radio interview.
Narro also said that Mexico wouldn’t be the country it is today without the contributions of professionals who were educated at UNAM.
Diego Valadés, a former director of UNAM’s Institute of Legal Research, rejected López Obrador’s claim that the university lost its people-oriented “essence,” asserting that it continues to educate in accordance with its “social commitment.”
Opposition politicians also defended the university while condemning the president for his remarks.
“I think it’s very regrettable that the federal executive is harming, damaging and assaulting our highest institute of learning,” said National Action Party (PAN) Senator Kenia López Rabadán.
“… This president will go like all [before him] have gone but our highest institute of learning will prevail; enough already of attacks on UNAM,” she said.
Institutional Revolutionary Party national president Alejandro Moreno offered his “full support” to UNAM Rector Enrique Graue and other members of the university community, while PAN Deputy Santiago Creel described López Obrador’s remarks against his alma mater as “reprehensible.”