Calling La Simón Elitist is Like Calling the Sky Blue

I love La Simón deeply. But commuting to and from campus every day from Guatire gives you a whole new perspective on elitism, USB-style.

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Dear Alejandro M.,

To understand why people are so angry at the management at Universidad Simón Bolívar and calling the university elitist, you could do worse than to have a chat with…me.

I grew up in Guatire, a small suburb of Caracas where you probably wouldn’t want to live right now. Years of unplanned growth turned the birthplace of Rómulo Betancourt and Vicente Emilio Sojo into a perpetuum immobile. Good luck travelling the 50 km that separate us from La Simón by public transport in less than three hours. Sure, suburbs like Charallave are much worse off, but buhoneros and motorizados long ago took over my beloved city.

I am middle class. My parents are both teachers, I went to a semi-private catholic school, my only job as a kid was to learn everything I wanted: music, chemistry, math. I didn’t have a care in the world. 2003 was a pretty good year for my family, I graduated from high school and found myself a top spot via the admission test in La Simón. I was one of the only four students who made it to a top public university from my school that year (four out of 88).

Honestly, I have no right to complain. My alma mater has done right by me. I graduated in five years with a rocking GPA. I was the pitchman – literally – for “studying requires sacrifices but it’s worth it” from Alianza Para Una Venezuela Sin Drogas. I have a lovely job in a gorgeous European city now.

And yet, I have no patience for the idea that La Simon is anything but elitist. Let me tell you why.

During my college years, I commuted over 50 km. each way from Guatire, a place that most of my fellow classmates knew only as a signpost on the way to the beach. My commute involved waking up at 4:30 am, getting a ride from my dad to the bus terminal, waiting in line for the next bus to Petare. Once in Petare, it was metro to Chacaito and finally another wait in line for the Bus to take me to La Simón.

My average commute time was just under three hours in the morning, add another 30 minutes or so if there was rain, plus 30 minutes if it was Monday or Friday, plus one or two hours if an 18-wheeler had broken down in the tunnel, you get the picture.

Thing is, my professors didn’t. I had a door slammed into my nose once at 7.32 am because I was late to a class starting at 7:30.

“Where do you think you are going? You are late, you can’t come into my class. Next time you should wake up earlier like your compañeros de clase: they ALL made it” Sure, they all did, in the cars their parents bought them for their 18th birthdays, some of them from places as far as La Florida or Alto Hatillo. You know, they live really, really far.

As a famously vocal – but very rule-loving – student, I accepted my fate. I was late, the teacher was right!  I decided I should find a better way to get me and my fellow Guatirepeople (that’s actually how we call ourselves) to the university.

Getting the Guatirepeople together was easy: we all sort of knew each other from waiting in line for buses in Petare. So we banded together and trudged off to the student union to ask for their support in getting a bus to take us from Guatire to the campus in one fell swoop.

It’s a day I will never forget.

We were greeted by the president of our Student Union: your typical sifrina, perfectly blow-dried hair, mandibuleo and sports car included. “Why do you need a bus. I’ve heard our current system works just fine, I’m sorry but we can’t help,” she said as she twirled her car keys around her little finger.

Granted, she wasn’t like 100% of the students from La Simón, just like 93%. That’s a rough estimate, but then 93% of students that enter through the admission test did graduate from private schools.

Did I mention I was pigheaded and vocal? Oh sorry, I’m also pigheaded. This time, she wasn’t right, I was right! She should’ve stood up for us, and we weren’t about to let things go without a fight.

You might think the university didn’t know about the Guatire situation. But oh no, they knew about it – all too well! Employees had their own university-owned blue bus for their commute. They refused to let students ride it, apparently because they needed the extra room to sleep.

We went to the Directorate for Services and demanded a meeting. They said no. We went to the Economic Vice-rector and demanded a meeting, he also said no.

Then… we talked to a bus driver, closed the entrance and the exit of the university and we were magically granted a meeting with guayaba juice and cookies included. The next day, the Guatibus was born together with my reputation as “TupaMaru”, because in la Simon if you complained back in 2005 you were immediately labelled as one.

But La Simón is not elitist you say? I beg your pardon.

Going back to the 93% of sifrinos, that’s an exaggeration, I realize that. Not everyone who comes up through private school and ends up in La Simón has a daddy-bought car and lives in el este del este, of course. And yet a study by Prof. Nelly Fernandez regarding the profile of USB students concluded that your average  USB-Joe belongs to the middle or upper-middle class.  

As far as for our Frau Ex-Präsident, we shouldn’t blame her, she just lived in a parallel reality unaware of how some other Venezuelans live, her own “Hundred Acre Wood”. She’s not entirely responsible for that. Yet that’s the point: what’s “normal” in La Simón is privilege. Privilege never has to explain itself. Privilege is the default setting. It’s only if you’re not from a privileged background that you need to explain yourself.

That’s what elitism in La Simón is about: a default setting where it’s just taken for granted that you have access to resources that the vast, vast majority of Venezuelans don’t have access to. No “equal opportunity program” you tack on can overcome this reality. We have to face up to this issue, not to deflect from it: coming up with real solutions is a question of intellectual honesty.

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Guatireño, the grandchild of two Carmens. BSc in Chemistry from La Simon and PhD in Chemistry from The University of St Andrews currently working as a Research Scientist in Germany. Big science geek, proud winner and supporter of the Chemistry Olympiads and former Viola player from El Sistema. Always up for a good discussion unafraid of playing the devil's advocate, politics, religion, science or art, you name it I'm up for it. In one word: Cesapo.

147 COMMENTS

  1. So the USB is elitist because you lived far away. Hmm. They gave you free education, but not free transportation.

    I am playing the world’s smallest violin.

      • Don’t think so, nope.
        That’s exactly the point.

        If he had been greeted at once and granted .. hmm not free, there was nearly free transportation by then .. but speediest transportation to people from La Guaira and Guatire (on the 80’s there was route from there, if I remember correctly) then we probably wouldn’t had been reading this article.

        Complaining and blaming about he had to work hard to get a meeting with the authorities is ridiculous. That is simple the norm. It’s hard to get a meeting with an authority. Here and anywhere.

        The student profile of the USB is a direct result of the low quality level of our public education. In contrast, at least half of my teachers on the 80’s at the USB graduated from public schools in the 60’s/70’s, all of them had PhDs from foreign universities. Most of my classmates were far from the “sifrino” attitude girl he describes and, certainly, is not the usual student in the USB. Not now. Not then.

        The USB mission is to produce the best of the best professionals to advance our society. The USB should admit the best of best to produce better students.
        The USB is not (and shouldn’t be) a social equality program where people from higher socio-economic strata should not be admitted to give lower income people a chance. That’s a short sighted stupid vision that is ultimately harmful to our society.

        According to his resume, it seems the USB did well on him. The rest, I’m sorry if I’m overstepping, sounds like crying baby BS.

        • I think it’s not fair to call him a cry baby.
          He is doing very well, and all those things happened over 10 years ago (12 if I remember well), so I honestly do not think he wants a min-violin to be played along with his story. I do not think he pretends that the USB becomes another (failed) venezuelan social program for equal opportunities.
          He is just pointing out something very simple for whatever the reason (it really doesn’t matter for this discussion) there are more mid-class and upper-class students than poor students in the USB , it is that simple.
          Because of that, there is an atmosphere in the USB where the services are not really a priority becuase most of the students do not really need them (not only talking about transportation, talking about access to course material and so on), and the ones that needed them were never enough to be considered a priority. It is just cause – consequence.
          I will give you an example, many times I had to come to a class where the professor already assumed everybody had a laptop to run certain program from home, I was that one student without a laptop, it was really MY problem. Where I am now, every single student has a laptop, and still, no professor would ever assumed that you have one beforehand. When you are doing the planification of the course, nobody assumes that the student have the means to do anything, that is how is sopposed to be and anything different from that is just plain unfair.
          And before anybody jumps to reply that Venezuela is being hit by a crisis, I want to remember you that we describe the panaroma of a university that actually had the resources 10 years ago. I never asked any professor to make a concession with me because I didn’t had a car to reach the university or I didn’t have money to print something, NEVER. But while you are in the USB it is impossible to notice that the needs of certain students are not really priority, just because they do not belong to the majority. It is that simple. But also is unfair.
          And I do not even want to tell you about what happens to students with special needs, if you were a handicap in the USB 10 years ago, good luck, but you better go to another institution. If you are not the majority, you are not relevant. And that is the elitist spirit the the author describes.
          Everything that I have now I owe it to the USB, I am deeply grateful to that institution but I think a fair amount of criticism can only help.

  2. Another of those sensible points for one of those Sobremesas: Should the Public Education be free when you are benefiting Estratos A y B?

    When we discuss this and my Simonbobo + Santiago De Leon friends always look at my as if I was saying crazy stuff like well… like saying that subsidizing the gas price is crazy.

    • I feel your pain bro. I have tried to discussed the issue with with some friends that are economics majors in UCV. They KNOW such regressive subsidies are extremely hurtful, they’ve seen it in class, read it in books.
      But nevertheless they support it when it’s about la casa que vence la sombra, when they benefit from it, and just try to sell to you the argument of how most of their classmates come from unprivileged backgrounds (which of course is not at all true)

    • Should the Public Education be free when you are benefiting Estratos A y B?

      NO

      And just for the sake of it, let me repeat it:

      HELLS NO!!!!

      I do believe in “free” education, just not our current model, and that is precisely one of the issues I have problems with. I agree its an excellent policy, regarding movilidad social, but first we have to take out the… Mr Hankey… out of our heads that “University or bust”. Not EVERYONE has to go to the University to have a successful life, in multiple countries you can actually “be someone” with a good education, just not university-level. University is NOT for everyone, and we have to learn to accept that it is not a bad thing that it is like that. In this regard universities should be, intellectually, elitists. Thats why Im pro admission tests.

      Second, as you mention, a free system should not benefit people who already are benefited. Sure, if you are very very smart shouldnt you deserve a scholarship, acknowledging your smarts? YES, ABSOLUTELY, should you be denied a scholarship just because you are already wealthy? That depends… it depends on how REALLY smart you are, as to justify giving someone already set up a free ride.

      I have known universities in other countries that charge tuition according the socioeconomic status of the student. As part as the application process, a full socioeconomic evaluation is performed for each accepted applicant, and according to the results, he or she is charged at a different rate. This way, students from stratos A and B only get scholarships if they are truly the top of the (academic) crop.

      Now, my biggest beef is with the “free” system. Right now, when you get to a public university, you pay practically zero. It doesnt matter if you flunk half the subjects, you still study for free while you clearly dont deserve it, as you’re eating the budget of someone who would actually work hard. Problem is if you expel this person, “you are denying his constitutional right to a university education”. Thats the second Mr Hankey we have to exorcise. ALL Universities should charge what the education ACTUALLY costs, the free system should consist in state sponsored scholarships: students get scholarships based on their academic merits and said scholarships are subject to academic excellence, if by any chance a student is not up to (academic) par, he/she loses the scholarship, does that mean he/she cant study in a university anymore? NO, he can still study, just not at the taxpayers expense.

    • Another of those sensible points for one of those Sobremesas: Should the Public Education be free when you are benefiting Estratos A y B?

      When we discuss this my Simonbobo + Santiago De Leon friends look at me as if I was saying crazy stuff like well… like saying that subsidizing the gas price is crazy.

      (corrected)

  3. And yet now, you have a nice life in Europe, no doubt thanks to the education you received at La Simon. You overcame all the obstacles and can now complain about “elitism” from your own elitist perch. Chamo, you really need to stop and listen to yourself.

    • You are missing the point. I love USB, I love it so much I want everyone to have exactly the same privilege I had to study there.

      • It’s funny how people like Roy believe being grateful and keeping your head down are the same thing. Thank you for the article, César. It is important to stay critical.

      • I did not get that from what you wrote. The only thing you made clear was that it was elitist because you lived far away from it. Which makes no sense. I do agree with you to a point. I went to Caracas from a small city “en el interior”, so in a way I get you. I was not a “sifrinito del este”. But the problem is not la simon. Most of the kids in public schools get a very bad education. I Think you missed your point in the article.

        • I wasn’t as clear as I wanted, The point is we have to stop saying we are something we are not. We are a university serving mainly the middle class, that makes us Elitist. I was lucky, I had options, I could actually take the bus and pay for it because I am middle class, many others don’t have that privilege and the worst thing is that the majority USB students aren’t aware of that.

      • “I want everyone to have exactly the same privilege I had to study there.”

        César, I too came from a middle class background (actually more like lower-middle). As a result of having a much better than average aptitude and a desire to live better than the circumstances into which I was born, I was able to get scholarships and was able to attend an “elite” university. And, just like you, I had to deal with “elitist” attitudes from many of the students who came from privileged backgrounds.

        Upward mobility between classes is never easy, but in the best-run societies it is possible, with hard work. But, here is the thing… Not everyone in the society HAS the aptitude and potential. No country or society has the resources to provide the very best possible education to everyone. And, even if they tried, it would be wasted on the average and below-average students. In fact, the very presence of the mediocre students would be an impediment to excellent students achieving to their highest potential. The very best universities ARE elitist, and it is by design. But, they strive for an elitism born of ability, not birth. My university (and yours) understood that to exclude everyone from the lower classes would eventually undermine their excellence. They need to attract the best potential and talent from wherever they can find it.

        The fact is that all humans are not equal. We are not born with equal abilities and potential. Our ideals of equality are born from the concept that we are all “equal in the eyes of the law”. But, the concept that my legal rights are equal to those of Steven Hawking or Michael Jordan doesn’t make me a world-class theoretical physicist or athlete.

        As a society, we want the cream to rise to top. We want people to achieve their highest potential because that benefits us all. The society that prevents upwards mobility (and downwards, for that matter) quickly becomes stagnant and moribund.

        Elitism exists in all areas of life. Among heavy construction equipment operators, tower crane operators are the “elite”. They sit a hundred meters in the air and operate a machine worth up to a million dollars or more. They are responsible for the safety of many lives and millions of dollars worth of investment. They do not get to that exalted position until their skill and experience earns it for them.

        My point is that elitism and excellence is something to celebrated, not reviled.

  4. I was going to attack your article but I prefer to hear your solution to this problem. Please tell us how to solve the inequality issue, I will like to hear realistic solution

  5. I study in the University of Carabobo. Not all the people I study with have cars that their parents bought them for their 18th birthday, and some of my professors are adamant about punctuality. It’s not about elitism, it’s about the stubbornness of said professors. Maybe they don’t have 3-hour commutes like you did, but still. I don’t think that whole issue was about elitism as much is it was from the competence or willingness of the University to present solutions to problems. In my opinion there are other issues that speak far more of elitism in Universities than those.

  6. By your logic, every single university in Venezuela (and in the world, I’d say) is elitist, since only a small percentage of the population gets to go. Is this blog elitist? Only people who understand English and have a certain level of knowledge on economics and politics can really enjoy it.

    I think your definition of what is elitist is too broad. I propose a different one: an elitist institution is one that keeps most people out BY DESIGN. And I strongly oppose the idea that La Simón is elitist by that definition.

    I am the son of a teacher too, I had to eat every meal at the comedores for five years, I received financial aid from DIDE (it was not much, but it helped), and I can’t feel grateful enough to the USB for all the opportunities that it gave me. I had free buses (we eventually got a student bus to Maracay every day), free meals, a free gym, free swimming pool, and I used every one of those things as much as I could. The idea that the USB is elitist makes no sense to me.

    You think you had it tough with the buses? The only reason you guys had a shot at getting your bus is because we, the Maracay bunch from 01 and 02 cohorts paved the road. When I had to commute from La Encrucijada, we had to take whatever seats were left to us by the employees in their bus. Some of them would openly express their hatred of us when they couldn’t take two seats to put their feet up. And yet they were among the first to criticize the USB for not being more inclusive.

    The USB is not perfect. It exists inside a deeply unequal society. But the authorities went to great lengths to make the university as inclusive as possible. Could they have done more? Sure, but I’d like to see someone do much better with such a deflating budget.

    Sure, kids from elite private schools are over represented, especially from elite schools in Caracas (during my first year I thought the Emil Friedman school was partners with USB, otherwise I couldn’t understand how many kids came from there). But is that the fault of La Simón? Those rich kids receive a much better education than most kids with our background. If we have to blame someone for the overrepresentation of privileged kids in La Simón, let’s blame the public school system for sucking so badly.

    • Yes the USB is elitist. It is a reflection of the Venezuelan educational system at large. Given the fact that private education is far more effective (which is necessarily unfair), the students that manage to get in La Simon always had far better educational opportunities than their peers from the public school system.

      • It’s not our fault that the governments, all those lefties, left the public middle school system wither and become the empty carcass it’s today.

        If your bachiburrato doesn’t prepare you fine for the university, study more, period.

    • THANK YOU. You saved me some time writing this.

      I, as a USBista not from A and B extracts graduated from a public high school that never owned a car, that used the comedores a lot to save money and worked in Biblioteca to have a an extra income and that was part of that “7%” mentioned in the article, I feel somewhat offended by this article with half truths.

      And I would like to highlight your last point that always misses everyone that complains about “elitism” in the USB: the problem is not the university, the problem is the public schools that are REALLY bad and allow people from private schools to have a noticeable advantage when it comes to getting in any decent university.

      • This right here sums up my thoughts, the problem isn’t that universities are elitist (they’ve always been so) but that public education at the bachillerato level is so so lacking in everything…

    • The university is elitist because the majority of the students from the university belong to the middle class. Just try thinking about this for a second. The middle class of Venezuela is only the 17% of the population. The University is only serving this small percentage of people. That’s pretty much the concept of an Elite. The point is we need to stop thinking that we are not Elitist, we have to accept this fact and actually do something to change it.

      • Again: I disagree with your definition of what is an elitist institution. Yes, any small select group constitutes an elite, but the word elitist implies an element of advocacy. The USB does not actively try to accept only members of the elite.

        Another analogy: a mountain can in principle be climbed by anyone, provided they are fit enough. Putting a gate at the base and only letting in members of your particular mountain climbing club would be elitist. Having a team of people doing what they can to train common folks to climb the mountain is pretty much the opposite of being elitist. The fact that the mountain itself is difficult to climb is beside the point.

        I accept the fact that USB students constitute an elite. I do not accept the proposition that the institution itself is elitist.

        • We are what we are made of. We are an Elite,we have to accept it.

          The thing with the mountain is a good analogy, here is how it really work.

          We put a note at the entrance of the mountain saying that you are all free to climb this mountain if you can kill the bear that protects the gate “bring your own weapon”

          We know that in the town only very few people have a gun, this gun is 20% effective against bears, the rest of the people have a knife, the chance of killing the bear with a knife is only 3%. We are treating everybody equally, everyone is indeed given the chance to fight the bear but you know since the beginning that at the end of the mountain you will most likely see people showing off their guns. Is that fair? fair would be to give everyone a gun and train them to fight with it. This will ensure that only those who are able to use a gun properly can get to the top of the mountain and not only those who could afford it in the first place.

          This is the point of my article, I’m sad you missed it.

          PIO is the equivalent to fight lessons with a knife, yes, it’s something but it does’t change change the fact that when you have to fight the bear all you have is a tiny little knife.

          We have to give people a gun and gun lessons. Ensuring everyone has a gun and knows how to use it before we release the bear is the only way to make sure that even if 80% of people will fail, they did it because they couldn’t fight with a gun, not because they couldn’t afford it.

          • I agree 100% with more (and better) programs to help underprivileged students have better chances entering higher education. not only academic preparation, but also scholarships (you can be as smart as you want, but without money for groceries, you’re screwed all the same).

            I guess I have a problem with your wording. I see the efforts made by the USB (however incomplete and imperfect they are) and I can’t justify calling the institution elitist.

          • “…not because they couldn’t afford it.”

            Again with this lame excuse…

            “The point is we need to stop thinking that we are not Elitist, we have to accept this fact and actually do something to change it.”

            The point is that people like you should stop thinking that hating the middle class somehow makes you a better person, because that’s the core of chavista thought.

          • In your analogy with the bear, the weapon (whether gun or knife) is the education with which the students arrive at the gate, i.e. the high school education. The preparation to conquer the bear is not (and should not be) provided by the mountain. That task belongs entirely to the high school system.

            Following that reasoning, the USB is not elitist since it is not selecting based on economic origin but purely on academical preparation, as well it should. The high school system is the one failing the lower classes, providing them knifes when they need guns. The high school system is the elitist one.

  7. Dear César,

    I was born from a middle class caraquenian couple who in 1995 left the city to Valencia with their three small kids so the would live a decent life in a decent neighborhood in a much cheaper city.

    When I turned 15 I already knew I wanted to return to Caracas and study in what I thought to be the best university Venezuela had to offer: La Simon.

    I moved in with my grandma in San Bernardino (west Caracas for most of my fellow uesebistas) and woke up every morning at 5 to catch a bus at 6 to end up arriving la Simon at 8:00 in the morning (wasn’t possible to do better. Public transportation in San Bernardino is awful).

    There I grew up to be an “integral citizen” as my teachers used to say and thanks to la Simon I studied and lived in Germany (actually have a couple German friends visiting me and my family right now) and I’m at only 27 an achieved financial professional. I don’t need to anymore, but when I do ride a bus I remember all the effort I went trough.

    I have to say found it unpleasant that you only tell half of the story.

    Yes, la Simon is elitist. But not exclusively elitist in a monetary sense. Is intellectually elitist as well, and it should stay so.

    Strictly speaking, la Simon is not to be blamed for the fact that private schools outperform public schools by far and that reflects in the demographic composition of an university that prouds itself on being highly competitive by many standards and producing some of the best prepared professionals -and citizens- of this country.

    That the pool of candidates for higher education is made basically out of private school graduates it’s actually a problem that affects the whole higher education system and its a public policy issue. Not La Simons. Sartenejas just happens to have the convergence of monetary and intellectual elitism and that’s a mix not every folk is pleased to observe.

    Ironically enough, la Universidad Simón Bolívar was the first public university to ever run an equal opportunity program -closing the gab between the public and private school candidates- and remains to be the only public university with 3 years technical careers.

    I’m sorry to tell you this César, but out university has been doing more than its part.

    It’s us, as a society, who haven’t. We still regard public-private school disparity as the standard when it should freak and embarrass ccus all. We should be running in circles. Go ask you 1st world neighbors.

    That said, I invite you to enroll in the Asociación de Egresados and Asociación de Amigos USB in case you haven’t where you can help both the university and the students -trough the Aquiles Nazoa scholarship program- trough this difficult times so more folks like you and me can make to the top, no matter where they come from.

    Best regards.

    • Dear Edgard,

      I totally agree with you. The University is and should be a place for intellectual elitism. Only for the best and brightest minds. My point is that at the moment this is not happening. La Simon is changing the best and brightest for “The best at test that shows that having a private school education gives you a huge advantage” and this is my big problem.

      As for the invitation, I was one of the people behind this https://www.gofundme.com/chcy1w I’m not stranger to the state of our university and I am working to improve it.

      We need to attend public schools and change it. But we as university have to stop saying we can’t take underprepared kids. We can, we have to, and we have shown that if we give them the right tools they can do better than kids from private schools. A new post is coming soon, bare with me I’ll prove it.

      • “The best at test that shows that having a private school education gives you a huge advantage”

        Seems to me that the fact that being in a private school gives you an advantage doesn’t have anything to do with La Simón… Or is the USB the ones to be blamed for the awfull public education system? The test was to get the best prepared students with best chance of success and, sadly, public system students were the worst prepared.

        And aboyt the 97% sifrinitos… I went to USB, i was a ’99 low mid class student, I was just thinking about the pleople I studied with and, with names and faces, i can tell you that 60% were from “el interior”, didn’t had a car, and lived in “residencias” in the neighborhoods close to the USB.

        Y solo mi percepción para terminar… lo siento mi pana pero leo tu artículo y lo único que veo es resentimiento, eres el típico carajo que se moría de la envidia al ver a la gente que tenia mejores condiciones económicas que tu. Eso no es sano y es precisamente la actitud que tiene el país destruido.

        Elitista por condiciones económicas? mis cojones!

  8. I’m really surprised by how negative the reactions are!

    It makes me feel like I probably did a bad job editing the piece: I thought Cesar’s affection for La Simón was so obvious he didn’t have to dwell on it too explicitly. I think I cut the places where he went on about how much he loved the place.

    Yikes!

    I’m learning too, guys. I think I screwed this one up in the edit.

    🙁

    • “I think I cut the places where he went on about how much he loved the place.”

      You think?
      Here’s what Think did: he poo’d in his pants when he thought he farted.

    • A good editor never changes the heart and soul of the piece… In this case I do not think you did a bad job at all. It is no about his love for La Simon, but for his point of view regarding the less privileged students and this is what the article is about… Do not take the critics personally!

      • Bueno pero es que no creas, for me these last few weeks have been a crazy learning curve. I’d never done this much editing of these many new writers in such a fast paced way. Obviously, I’m going to make mistakes – that’s inevitable. But this piece was the first time when I really felt the writer was getting criticisms they wouldn’t have gotten if I’d done a better job.

        It’s a crappy feeling. Cesar’s been a good sport about it. But yikes…

  9. Excellent article. I used to live in El Valle and went to high school to El Santiago de Leon thanks to an humongous economic effort by my mom. Which, by the way, was associated professor at the UCV and her income only got for those two things: an apartment in El Valle and sending me to the second most expensive school in Caracas. See the picture?.

    How did I get in the Santiago being lower middle class?. Well, in Venezuela or at least in Caracas I tend to believe that : “todo pelabola tiene algun familiar con plata or poder”, the contrary is also true that could be a collorary: “Cualquier amo del valle tiene algun familiar pelabola”. My commute was about half of yours going from El Valle to La Floresta. I did not have a lot of social position harassment but let’s say that I was isolated from certain elements that otherwise I would have more exposure.

    Fast forward to my years in the UCV pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree. We had to go the USB to use their electronic controlled lathe that was hooked to a PC AT-386 while our was a punch card relic. The UCV had more or less the same elite approach at least in the engineering faculties. Very few lower class students would be able to keep up even with the free meals and relatively good access to book in the Central Library.

    Your picture is the picture of public universities that are paid by the population directly via taxes or indirectly via oil revenue and what comes with it but that are not fully enjoyed by that population. In theory our universities are a reflection of the country: we took the best and the worst of public education, as we took the best and the worst of democracy and nowadays that grabastic thing called chavismo, or the best and worst of being an oil country. Our universities have an endemic lack of sufficient resources. Being the brain of our country, the universities suffer the same ills: social inequalities, waste, politically based action, and lapses in the quality and quantity of the faculty. In our stage and age, even the most humble public university (perhaps the UBV) is focused in the elites, being economic or political elites. Further to that is the fact that professional graduates seldom give back towards that “free” education, now a lot more tangible issue with the amount of professional Venezuelans living overseas.

    I can certainly say that your article touched on a subject that most people tend to avoid or pretend to be blindsided. Kudos to you.

    • Thanks, I’m glad you felt the same way and got the point. Being critic to our universities doesn’t mean we hate them, it means that we want to make them better.

  10. I still think César’s critique is basically right. For me an institution is elitist if it tends to exclude – whether or not by conscious design – the vast bulk of people who lack socio-economic privilege.

    By that standard, Caracas Chronicles is deliriously elitist – and I’m basically okay with that.

    I don’t think “it’s elitist” is a terminal slur, one that disqualifies an institution.

    Where I agree with Cesar is that elitist institutions shouldn’t bullshit themselves. They shouldn’t buy into their own public relations/propaganda about how they really aren’t elitist. They should have the intellectual integrity to face up to their condition.

    • The USB has always be upfront about their Intellectual Elitism and that’s what makes most of the best universities.

      But it’s a half truth to say that the USB is socio-economical elitist by design because this is a problem rooted in the poor public education offered in the country and not by design of the university.

    • It is not because the USB outperforms other national universities at promoting social mobility that it becomes the absolute gold standard. The article reminds us that even the USB is embedded in a system that is generally unkind to the disadvantaged and perpetuates inequality.

    • I think a distinction is needed.
      An institution should be considered elitist if it excludes (“whether or not by conscious design”) people who lack socio-economic privilege in a way that is DISPROPORTIONATE to the population that it is selecting from (not the country population or even the applicants population, only the population of those that actually qualify).

      For instance if 1000 students applied to the USB, with 30% coming from private schools, but only the top 200 were academically qualified and 90% of those came from private schools, then 90% is the correct proportion to NOT be considered elitist. If instead they admitted 95% from private schools then they could be called elitist.

      Put another way, if the criteria for selection does not include any other factors than the purely academic then the USB cannot be considered elitist and the resulting dispar distribution is a reflection of the disparity of society, not of an institutional bias (apart from the academic bias of course).

      ——————————————————————-

      Such dispar distribution is certainly evidence of a problem, but not with the USB.
      For the USB, paradoxically, is evidence they are actually doing a good job and should be left alone. Artificially altering the selection process (with quotas, or adding political and socio-economical factors) would only obfuscate the situation and hide the real problem: the basic and high school public education.

    • Of course. And the more “Elitist”, the better for the entire country. Unless you want more Delcy Rodriguez’s putting Venezuela to shame internationally with their common and frequent flatulences, and that’s before she opens her sweet mouth at the ONU and such. Just to cite 1 small example. The blind leading the blind, to put it mildly.

  11. The sad thing about public universities in South America is that they tend to help a small privileged group — when compared to the rest of society — that shouldn’t really be helped, perpetuating a social divide and neglecting the poor. The government use the taxes collected among the upper/middle class and poor to help only the first group’s children. If developing societies want to help the poor, they should obviously prioritize basic education. Possibly using the vouchers Gloria Alvarez likes to mention so much. Let the rich and poor study at the same particular school.

    Of course, the people that take advantage of such system shouldn’t feel guilty, because we will always seek what is best for us, but we have the moral duty of trying to fix such injustice somehow later. And for such sensibility, I congratulate the author of this text.

    • “…they should obviously prioritize basic education.”

      +1

      When you improve the basic education, then those people’ll have the same chance as others to enter the universities.

  12. Yo soy de la catolica, tengo carro desde los 16 y vivia en “este del este” por aquella epoca, asi que no se de que hablan…Ciertamente creo que la UCAB a pesar de ser privada es la menos elitista de todas la universidades de CCS; pero posiblemente soy you que estoy bias!

  13. I believe the article misrepresents some aspects of the USB as it is now. Nonetheless, I believe the problem lies in the enormous difference between private and public schools, regarding the quality of the education received.

    I recall when I was a “nuevo” back in 2010, when there was already a quota of students that had to be admitted via OPSU. Although this alternative allowed many students from different economic backgrounds and parts of the country to be admitted, it also made clear that many were not adequately prepared in areas such as mathematics, physics, chemistry or English, all vital to pursue a engineering degree in a top university.

    Many of the students through the sheer force of their will and effort, managed to rise above the challenge and excel at their studies, and often surpassing the students who had an easy ride getting admitted, such as those coming from the many private schools in Caracas (I include myself in the later group). Yet there were others, who despite trying their best, the odds were stacked against them, and ended up being expelled due to the unforgiving permanence system of the university.

    The USB has worked hard to provide opportunities to even the odds for students from less privileged backgrounds, such as programs as PIO (Programa Igualdad de Oportunidades) or CIU (Ciclo de Inciación Universitaria), but the fact remains that much more has to be done, not only by the university, but society and government as well to close the breach that divides students from private and public institutions.

    I will give to Cesar, that many of the more privileged students in the university are absolutely unaware of the difficulties other students face, since in the end the university is a reflection of the country we live in. I also sympathize with the fact, that many times professors take for granted that students have access to expensive scientific calculators, laptops, etc. But this has more to do with the basic lack of resources that the university faces rather than privilege.

    In my case, my time at the USB allowed to break from the little glass bauble I had grown up in, and see the many realities that exist in my country. Many of my friends had similar situations to yours, living in San Antonio, Los Teques or Guatire, so I am well aware of the problem. I had the luck of having a car, and always offered them a ride to a subway station or letting them crash in my house when we had an important tests the next day. In the end, these experiences allowed me to better understand the country I lived in, and become a better citizen and person.

    The USB has remained an incredible social equalizer, full of heart-warming stories of success and hard-work, and it’s why I will be always proud of calling myself a “uesebista”, regardless of what people might say.

  14. I do not get the point of the article. Really, Francisco and Cesar. What are you trying to say? It is not clear and that is the reason for the negative responses.

    I also graduated from the USB and I have always thought that the majority of students there (including me) were of middle-class or upper-middle-class (and mostly from private schools). Aha… OK… and? where do we go from there? Do you want to tell me something about that? Is that it?

    In the current mindset for the current government, the word elitism is as bad as imperialism. Throwing it there without qualification does not help. What are you saying? If we agree that the USB is “elitist,” then what? Is that good? bad? what does it mean? why does that happen? There are so many things one could say.

    This is just the start, a statement.

    • The point of this article is that in order to find any solution, in order to be really honest we have to admit it, we are an elitist university not because we take the best but because we are filled with middle class people, and we are not given a chance to those who are not. That’s my point. Solutions and so on, that will come later. Here I just wanted to say that we can’t just say “we are not elitist” we have to say, yes we are, the reasons for that our not our fault, but then again, we are elitist.

      • I think we agree in the main point, but you have to go further. When I started there, the USB was the only public university that some people thought was private. The fact that the admissions was different than the rest really changed the demographic of the incoming student. It was clear that the USB was the most elitist of public universities. So I think more people than you give credit already knew that. Including upper-middle-class like me.

        The first question is whether it should be “elitist.” I know you know all these things, but anyway. Remember it is so not by intent. The intent was to choose the best. The problem was that the “best” came only from private universities. Where is the problem there? I think the problem does not lie in the university.

        In the current society, “elitist” is a bad word. Should the universities be less elitist? In the current Venezuelan context, to say something is elitist without elaborating is to imply something is “evil,” so you have to say more, so I will wait what else you intend to say.

    • To force the upper/middle to pay to study there would allow the government to invest the money spared in poor children’s basic education, amending the admission inequality problem after some years, assuming Venezuela has a normal government, obviously.

  15. Ok. So it’s the school’s fault that is is 50Km. away from Guatire or even farther away from Guarenas, let alone Barlovento. And iit’s it’s fault the metro was never built . And arriving late for class should be applauded.. People from the barrios should get a break, as they are today.. fantastic.. While the best of the best get the hell out of there, including their professors. Just what Castro and Chavez wanted. Lowe academic standards, let the bus drivers rule.

    The Elite should govern. The smartest, most intelligent, most prepared. The sifrinitos burgueses like Simon Bolivar or Obama. Or you get a bus driver “oprimido” por la elite in power. You have Capriles or Leopoldo from the most Elite school around. I take the “elite” any day of the week. That’s why those schools produce the best people. Mendoza, Hausmann. Sorry to be blunt. It’s not your fault, but it isn’t Simon Bolivar’s either if they maintain high academic standards. The problem is elsewhere. But since we are censored here, I’ll just leave it at that.

    • Did I complain when I was late, no, I accepted my fate. I’m sorry to burst your bubble if you really think that the most intelligent are the ones who study in a private school. Those super intelligent private school pupils also hit the wall when they start en la Simón, 20% of them will leave after the first year. Intelligence can’t be bought, the chances of passing a test yes! That’s the problem.

      • Hola Cesar,

        I enjoyed your article, very nicely done. I’m curious about the percentage of non-private school students who leave after one year, if you know it.

        Cheers

        • Luis, easily accessible data is one of the things La Simón should be A LOT better at. I don’t know if these statistics are even being compiled. You can try tweeting at @povalles, he’s my very friendly source at the USB. And do let me know if you find the data! I’d love to know this.

        • Hi Luis, I’ve talking to a Prof. from la Simon and she shared her raw data with me I’m trying to make sense of it and I will try to publish a detailed analysis of it soon.

  16. The real problem here is not la Simón and its supposed elitism – the real problem here is the useless transportation system, from the actual infrastructure to the services, that made it such a nightmare for you to get to your university. So you blocked the entrance to the university? Well, that’s definitely much easier than coming up with a solution to the real problem. (Not that it was only your responsibility, obviously).

    Did you even try talking to other students? You know, my dad gave me a car for my 18th birthday, I live in what you probably think of as el este del este and I probably mandibuleo when I speak but I would have definitely helped you, even if my contribution would have just been signing a petition or something as simple as that.

    It also impresses me a lot that after all that you have achieved, you still believe in el cuento de los sifrinos. Sorry to break it to you, but you have a tittle and you live in Europe? You are one of us! That’s how pathetic that generalization is.

  17. Fact is, prior to Chavez, people with money and privilege often looked down on those with less with utter and toxic distain. My wife grew up in the mean streets of El Tigre and she never go over the dismissive airs cast her way by those with a shiny Chevy and a pocket full of Bs. Of course not everyone was like this but enough that Chavismo was at least possible – if disastrous. A smart, driven overachiever could rise about, per the author, but he’d take his lumps and indignities in the process. This cast system is part of human nature, but in Venezuela it was especially poisonous. Something had to give. And here we are.

    Juancho

  18. Tertiary education subsidies in Venezuela are very regressive. Their regressiveness is agravated by the shity state of the basic/secundary public education system. Elitism is real, but it’s a consequence, rather than a cause of the problem. The real problem is the regressiveness of the subsidy and, sorry César, givin free stuff to the rich includes la sifrinita de la FCU, but also includes you and your Guatirepeople. Giving freebies to Guatire is only marginally better than La Tahona o Piedra Azul. Let’s keep it real and don’t lose sense of proportion of how the income distribution in Venezuela looks like.

    • I’m not complaining that we are giving freebies to anyone, my only complain here is that we are not accepting things for what they are. Regardless of the causes and who’s to blame, La Simon is elitist because it favors “me” also middle class over any other group.

      • I think you are wrong Cesar. The USB does not favor anyone for being middle class but for being better prepared academically and thus it cannot be called elitist. Being elitist is not the same as having a particularly high representation of the higher economic strata.

        You could say that the education system up to high school is elitist because it disproportionately favors those better off. The USB’s resulting student demographics is simply a reflection of that situation.

    • Totally agree.

      Sorry for the self promotion, but I mentioned something about this topic (our free system) at the beggining of the comment section. Basically, Ive known other universities in other countries that charge according to socioeconomic status, once the applicant is accepted, a socioeconomic evaluation is performed and according to the results he/she is placed in some payment category. I also taked about other things, but I dont want to repost. so, if you dont mind, Id like your oppinion on that issue 🙂

  19. Cesar;

    I guess I’m beginning to understand what you’re trying to say based on your last comment “Those super intelligent private school pupils also hit the wall when they start en la Simón, 20% of them will leave after the first year”. I guess what you’re saying is that the admission test is not a good measure of who should be admitted and those from private school pass the test probably because they’ve dome more math, chemistry, etc. exercises while in high school and have more practice. If this is what you mean you should’ve said so.

    One problem I see with high school education in Venezuela is that kids are not taught to think. They’re given tons of homework and lengthy tests that only require memorizing formulas, but not really thinking through issues to arrive to solutions. At least that’s how it is at the private school my niece goes to.

    So I guess we need to change our school programs to help develop the kid’s capacity to think and come up with an admission test that better evaluates this.

    • There is plenty that we should and HAVE to do, one of them is calling things for what they are, the university is Elitist. I promise I will write about what I think we should do to improve the system. But as with any other problem, the first step towards improvement is acknowledgment. We have a problem, we are Elitist and that’s something many refuse to understand.

  20. Fact is for all the rico guff, smarts and ambition win out in the end. My daughter did her undergrad work in petroengineering at USB and while her freshman class was 90% entitled (like her), five years later there were hardly anyone still standing (dropped out or traversed into an easier program) and those came from all socioeconomic areas. My older daughter is an MD and she said she could never have cut that program. You gotta stand up and cheer when a hardship case get through that kind of gauntlet. Kudos to Venezuela for making that possible, no matter how hard and how rotten the pecking order is in the process. But who’s laughing now?

  21. “La Simon is elitist because it favors “me” also middle class over any other group”. How do they favor middle class over poor classes? Do they ask; are you poor/rich? Or is it that they favor better performance in the admission test? Why are the kids from the lower classes doing poorly in these tests. Is the test poorly designed or is the education from public schools not good enough to pass an admission test?.

    I don’t give a crap whether the school is called elitist or not. To me the problem is that kids from lower classes are not being admitted. So we need to find out why and solve the problem. At the same time we need to start thinking about how we’re going to help these kids financially so that once they’re in the have affordable access to transportation, books, computers, etc.

    The more people get an education, the better off the country will be.

    • Here is how it works. It is unfair to allow for a system that favors people who aren’t necessarily smarter but simply have more experience decide if you can have the opportunity to start university or not.

      As of for being Elitists, we are, it is not entirely our fault, but we are.

  22. Another problem that I see in Venezuela is that most people think that when kids flunk tests because they find the subject too difficult/teachers are tough, then that schools/teacher is very good. When in my of my college classes in the US kids started to flunk their tests, the first thing the school did was to put another professor in that class to determine what the problem was. After a week or two they concluded that our professor was not explaining the subject clearly and had to improve on his teaching methods.

  23. Cesar sez: “It is unfair to allow for a system that favors people who aren’t necessarily smarter but simply have more experience decide if you can have the opportunity to start university or not.”

    How does this play out? All too often the elite give the advantage to the other elites and has no social or emotional or national investment in some broke kid from the pueblo. Such people have no business being gatekeepers to a free institution. If Chavismo has done nothing else but gut the country, it opened eyes to the fact that the have-nots count for something and should be reckoned with on principal and the natural laws of human dignity.

    • The only point of this article was to point out the obvious, that our admission system favors the middle class. Never was to make it look as if the government is right or wrong about what the new system should be.

      Admitting that our system is faulty doesn’t mean that the new system is good. It means only that our old system is wrong and I hope you agree with that, because that’s the real issue, it needs to change, now how does it have to change that’s a different question, and it will be the content of a follow up article.

      • Well César, we’ll be waiting for your proposal on how changes at the University level will attack the problem!
        I have to say that I agree with many of the comments, in that the problem is a public policy issue, and only structural changes have a shot at truly solving it.
        It’s mostly the shitty state of the public schools (which I link with the ridiculously regressive subsidies of tertiary education) that have led to this “elitism” you mention so often, that is more tan just intelectual elitism (desirable for a university, of course), but also socio-economic elitism.
        Anyhow, congratulations for a great article (and also to the self-flagellating Francisco) that led to the starting a discussion on such an important (and often overlooked) subject.

  24. Chamos,
    El problema se resuelve facilito. Volteando el embudo. Yo me gradue en la Simon no por que mi familia era clase media. Me gradue en la Simon porque pase el examen de admisión y le eche un camion de bola. Y pase el examen de admisión y le pude echar un camion porque tenia una base mejor que la de muchos de los chamos de mi edad. Y tenia una buena base porque mi familia se preocupo de que fuera a un buen colegio (privado) y cuando pifie en algún momento me metieron en el carril rapidito. Y fui a un colegio privado porque la escuela publica era (hacen un montón de años) un desastre. Y era y es un desastre porque la inversion en educación básica es baja (y en las universidades alta, no nominalmente, pero si proporcionalmente en comparación con lo que se invierte en early childhood development (cero), primaria y bachillerato). El problema es la desigualdad arrechisima de oportunidades.
    Cuando el chamo que nace de una madre soltera en el hogar depauperado no recibe ninguna tipo de estimulacion por parte de su madre (porque no tiene idea), y lo sientan al frente de la TV por horas para que se entretenga, el chamo va perdiendo terreno. Que tal que hubiese centros de atención para los chamos de 6 meses para arriba, super bien dotados y atendidos por personas bien preparadas y pagadas que ademas “educaran” a la madre para que continue el trabajo en la casa.
    Y cuando el chamo este listo para ir al kinder y a primaria llegue con la misma “preparación” que el chamo clase media, con papa y mama, y toneladas de estimularon por parte de su familia. Y ademas va a una escuela primaria con maestros bien preparados y pagados (que le dan tres vueltas de campana a los maestros de la escuela privada) de forma que tenga iguales, si no mejores, oportunidades. Y así vamos hasta que se gradúa de bachiller y en base al mérito se gana una beca para entrar a la universidad, paga, porque todo el presupuesto de educación se nos fue en la educación básica y atención pre-escolar.
    Esa es la solución, resolver la desigualdad de oportunidades volteando el embudo del gasto en educación.

  25. I don’t understand what the point of the article is. Apart from an entertaining bunch of anecdotes about an underdeveloped transportation system and student struggles for more free goodies, at the end what we can get is that the USB admission system (basically, a test) is utterly unfair and elitist, that conclusion based on the social economic profile of the students who pass the test (no hints are given on why the less favored fail). Well, by that standard there are so many elitist things we should tackle, for example: fuel subsidies, the boliburgueses owners of 100 feet yachts are the great majority of customers at the PDVSA petrol stations at the marinas of Morrocoy, Higuerote or Puerto la Cruz. Oh! Such an elitist petrol station! Serving only the top 0.01% of the society with free fuel, for them to go in a sea day with a bunch of prepagos. Outrageous! Or the Venetur Canaima whose lion’s share of clients is the same sifrinos, who are the only ones able to afford to travel to a remote landmark in the middle of nowhere: I cannot stand such elitism!

    Haven’t you noticed that there are a whole bunch of other universities for the less talented people? How many of your high school classmates were rejected from ALL public tertiary education institutions, including INCE and the more recently UBV? The same way there is plenty of other petrol stations everywhere (some that will serve only the last 10% of the society: shocking!) and Venetur hotels. You are focusing on one specific place and forgetting they are part of a bigger system to make your diagnostic.

    Haven’t you noticed that the common problem in all these issues is that all are FREE to everyone? Haven’t you thought that the obvious way to solve the problem is, as usual, the market: privatize the place and give loans (so you cannot go to Germany to enjoy your lovely job at your gorgeous city, gotten with your quality education at the expense of the taxpayer, namely, the same sifrinos who denied your natural right to a free bus) to the ones like you or the others left behind in the previously “unfair” system: Paying for your education will enable you (and most importantly, the sifrinos) to carefully evaluate the value of getting it, not just doing it because it’s free and you are “privileged”, not counting that it will be a sustainable and ever growing system just by market incentives.

    Anyway, I will wait to see your proposed solution.

    • “…there are a whole bunch of other universities for the less talented people”.

      The moment you see education as an exclusive “product” that can be counterfeited (original vs. knock-off), all your secondary points become moot. It doesn’t seem you’re getting that even the tiniest, most modest college should give education of good quality to their students.

  26. If I may add, this article brilliantly illustrates how the habits that the privileged consider virtues may be a function of privilege, and a mechanism for arbitrary exclusion. i.e. ‘We are better than you because we show up on time’. I tell you, every visitor to Venezuela thinks that thought, at some point or other, perhaps several times a day, and leaves with that thought imbedded in their brain, even if they would be ashamed to admit it. It bears examination…why do you, boy in the upper middle class bubble, always show up on time?…how do you perform that feat? Well, for starters, there wasn’t a 3 hour commute through the third world to get from point A to point B….

    But beyond that, its a funny story, full of lessons. The staff who cleaned up after the 93% snobs had a bus. Why? Because they had compelling arguments? No. Because they said at some point, do what’s fair, or we’ll shut you down. So there’s a lesson too. You don’t need Che Guevarra and the collected works of Karl Marx. You don’t need world revolution. You need to ‘talk to a guy with a bus’.

    CC did some great recruiting while they were dormant. Don’t apologize for this kind of writing, it is well worth reading. Some elite institutions taught me to recognize that.

  27. This discussion has devolved into an argument over semantics. The word ‘elitist’ obviously makes some people uncomfortable. I appreciate the author’s perspective but ultimately disagree with the premise. School is a great arbiter of self determination; if you put in the work, you reap the rewards. Academia is blind to privilege.

    Are Ivy League schools elitist? Yes they are, it’s the reason they have a enormous amount of Nobel prizes. It is ridiculous to suggest, especially if you went to through the gauntlet, that USB is elitist because it admits more members of the middle class. Sure, we can argue back and forth that having a car or access to a private tutor makes easier but at the end of the day the buck stops with the individual.

    Calling La Simon Academically Elitist is Like Calling the Sky Blue and it should remain that way.

    • The word “elitist” is an insult in Venezuela, it’s simple as that, you call somebody like that, they’ll react in the most logical way, because they were insulted.

  28. And when talking about Elitism, how can you leave out all of the other “Universities” in Vzla, private and public, easy or tough? How can you not talk about the despicable Chavista new system of rewarding academic under-achievement or PSUV enchufes and punishing the best kids with the best grades from the best schools that actually worked the hardest and studied the most for years?

    But no, you have to focus on the 1 good College in Vzla, or one of the very few. And don’t even mention the elephant in the room these dreadful days: the entire Educational sistem is in crisis, broken, and getting worse by the day. And you blame one of the few top schools for doing a great job at keeping high standards. Y suggest we look at the big crisis de la educasion bolibanana del siglo 21..:

    “Y es que recientemente el DesGobierno de Venezuela anunció una medida que atenta contra la autonomía de las universidades públicas en el país: informó que. a partir de este año, la totalidad de los cupos universitarios serán asignados vía Sistema Nacional de Ingreso, el cual está a cargo del Ministerio para la Educación Universitaria.”

    http://www.efectococuyo.com/efecto-cocuyo/asignaran-340-mil-cupos-universitarios-a-traves-del-sistema-nacional-de-ingreso

    http://es.panampost.com/sabrina-martin/2015/06/01/gobierno-de-venezuela-estatifico-asignacion-de-cupos-universitarios/

    http://ingreso.opsu.gob.ve/

    http://www.efectococuyo.com/efecto-cocuyo/crisis-universitaria-deja-a-la-deriva-a-estudiantes-ucevistas

    Total Castro-Chavista Cubanisasion de la educasion en Vzla, even the horrific TS de injusticia is involved.

  29. Reading the comments to this post I find it interesting that so many people answer with an attitdue of “oh, what a crybaby” “you’re full of resentment”, “stop complaining cuz its not a big deal”

    it IS a big deal to some people.

    I was LUCKY to get my grandmas POS car to go to university, and I managed to get friends with cars that would gladly give me a ride if I needed it, and I cant imagine what some of my classmates had to go thru just to get to the classroom. Ive heard things… and stories like the ones this post talks about.

    I find it interesting (and sad) the COMPLETE, ABSOLUTE, UTTER (and so on and so forth) inability to relate to the problems of the other, because its not so much about being able to understand, but about being WILLING to understand. This is what causes resentment, this is a big part of what brought us Chavez, this is why he captivated people and this is why sometimes, opposition is badly seen, because people relate the two things: oppo = elitism = they wont care about us, they dont represent us, because for starters, they dont understand us and dont want to.

    • I do relate. But the argument is not logic. Is just wrong. So: (a) the average high school in Venezuela is very bad, and only middle class kids that can afford a private school that will let them pass the admission test go to college, (b) public transport is very bad, no trains no nothing, three hours to get from home to the University. All true.

      How is this the University’s fault?
      Seriously.

      There is a problem. I think the solution requires (among other things) that universities get more money, high schools get more money, and the infrastructure to be update. I don’t see how focusing in the fact that only middle class kids go to the USB helps to solve the problem. That is consequence of the huge mess that Venezuela is right now.

      I went to the USB. Now I’m in Italy. Here university is practically free. But if you live far way, you just take the train. No one blames the university for not providing transport. And not everybody is expected to go to college. You may make a decent living in other ways. So yes, university IS for an elite.

      Again, there is a problem. But I don’t see how the cause of the problem is an university with a VERY LOW budget, were even the professors are leaving because their salary is too low even to pay rent.

      I worked for a while as a graduate teacher assistant, and later as an “instructor” (the lowest in the academic rank). I could barely pay the rent. That was like 9 years ago. I don’t want to imagine what is it like now.

      So in the middle of the shit storm that is Venezuela right now, blaming la simon for being elitist is like blaming Caldera for the mess we are in. It may be true, but totally misses the point.

    • “I was LUCKY to get my grandmas POS car to go to university…”

      You said it, you were LUCKY to get a car, others like me had to resort to either the university’s transport, or by the utter crap that’s the public transport.

      “…and I cant imagine what some of my classmates had to go thru just to get to the classroom…”

      I got mugged a couple of times while getting to the transport stop, but that didn’t made me into a resentful person who instantly hated those who had a car for not being in the same problem as me.

      “…but about being WILLING to understand”

      chavistas have been insulting and treating us like shit for more than a decade and half, I’m not willing to understand them, you nailed it. They started this, they can’t expect to stomp and kick someone and “salir liso”

      “people relate the two things: oppo = elitism =…”

      chavistas relate “non-chavista” with elitism because that’s what’s been taught to them, they were trained to hate the middle class folks as a means of political manipulation.

      Also, “elitism” has become an insult thanks to that conditioning.

      “…they wont care about us, they dont represent us, because for starters, they dont understand us and dont want to.”

      The difference between “them” and “us” is that I don’t care if they improve by their own means, if they worked for it, they earned it, that’s their problem, but they always care about how making our lives miserable everyday.

      I’m not interested in “being represented” by someone who gave two coups, slaughteing more than 300 in a couple of days, and then got away with it because he had a “palanca”

      They also don’t understand why we just want to live in peace, that we can work and progress without having some criminal come and steal everything after killing you.

  30. Cesar,

    First of all, let me start by saying that I am one of those fortunate students that had car while in the University ( a ’72 chevy Nova) in the 80’s and I am not ashamed of that.

    If I may ask you a question: did you consider renting a room closer to the University? And, if you did not have the means to cover that, did you consider having a part time job?

    Could you tell me how the system works in Germany? How in the US? And, also, how works in Cuba?

    Life is not fair….

  31. Hi Cesapo, I truly enjoyed your piece and thought that it was well edited (message to Quico). As a student from the “interior” (aka Maracaibo), I don’t think I ever fit in with the sons and daughters of the economic elites that attended USB. For starters, I talk funny. But honestly, in retrospect, I think that is ok. I had a great experience there. I truly love the place and agree with the basic principle (implicit in your piece) of the University being required to harmonize the experience for everybody.

    The single most important thing they could do is create residence halls. Now, I know they worry about dens for future “guerillas”, hot spots for radicalism, drug use, you get the picture … But why should you give up 6 hours of your day that you could spend studying in public transportation? And the problems they worry about are non problems in other places.

    Of course, our precious alma mater has much bigger things to worry about than residence halls for people that come from outside Caracas. Today, they are fighting for their survival. I hope they can come out ahead.

  32. Dear all,

    If I were to ask you the following question: What colour is the sky in Venezuela at 5pm in the afternoon, what will you answer be? Be honest. I think you will all say blue. True, the sky might sometimes be pink, orange, grey or even black, but the majority of the time, the answer to that question is blue. Because the fact is, the sky in Venezuela at 5pm in the afternoon is almost always blue.

    Now, if you ask the same question to a Scotsman, what colour is the sky of Edinburgh at 5pm in the afternoon? he will probably say it’s grey. True sometimes is pink, sometimes is orange maybe even blue, yet the majority of the time, the answer to that question is grey.

    I’m not asking why is the sky blue?, I’m not blaming Venezuela for having such a privilege location near to the equator that makes our sky be blue most of the time. I’m just pointing out how lucky we are to be living in a country with a such beautiful blue sky.

    Now replace the question with “is the average student of la simon middle class?, is the middle class part of a very reduce portion of the population?” what will your answer to that question be.

    I’m not asking you why does that happen, I’m not blaming the university for that fact, I’m just stating it. ” We are a public funded university servicing almost exclusively the middle class”

    Whatever you think the reason for that is, that’s beyond the point of my statement, I just need you to be honest to yourself and answer the question. Leave your feelings aside, and simple answer.

    I hope you get the point now. I am no resentido social, in fact, I feel like I have everything I could ever wanted, I had the chance to study in one of the best universities of Venezuela.

    “I am middle class. My parents are both teachers, I went to a semi-private catholic school, my only job as a kid was to learn everything I wanted: music, chemistry, math. I didn’t have a care in the world.”

    I am part of the middle class, that’s my point, I am part of the elite, that doesn’t make me immune to reality, the fact that I realize what I have doesn’t make me ungrateful, it makes me aware that unlike me, tons of students are denied the same opportunities that I had.

    I will be publishing soon what I think the solutions to our problems could be. I believe that just complaining isn’t enough, but as to for any other problem, the first step to finding a solution is admitting that we have a problem, only then we can work to make things better.

    • That’s the root of the problem that allow people to fall for the Bolivarian dream: they deny reality. Between facts and utopia, they choose the latter. It doesn’t matter how ugly, or hard, or emotionally painful said reality is, reality should be always preferred.

      You have only been stating FACTS, yet many here seem to be paralyzed by cognitive dissonance, truly behaving like immature children that don’t want to hear the truth just because it ‘hurt’ their preconceived beliefs.

  33. I went to USB for a short time between 1977 and 1978 before I left to attend college in the USA on a Mariscal de Ayacucho scholarship. I lived in Sebucan, but was most certainly lower middle class. Like Cesar, I did not have a car, and making it to the USB on public transportation was a small daily odyssey, even back then when traffic was a much lesser deal in Caracas. Even then, the degree of sifrinismo at USB was remarkable. By the tone-deaf comments comments here, I see that little has changed. What a pity!

    • So Sebucan was considered a lower middle class in those years and then improved a lot? Because all the people I have met from Sebucan were certainly higher middle class by any means.

  34. “is the average student of la simon middle class?, is the middle class part of a very reduce portion of the population?” From what I know and from what most, if not all, of the comments here; everyone agrees that’s true. Now, if that was the only point you wanted to make, OK. But what most, including me, seemed to have gotten by the piece you wrote is that it is the university’s fault. This is why there has been so much apathy against what was written.

    Now that we now what the point was, we need to understand why this is the case, what we want the student body to look like and how we can achieve it.

  35. Es sorprendente esta sección de comentarios. Tanto tiempo fuera de Venezuela me había hecho olvidar lo poco que le importa a cierta gente (mi clase media por ejemplo) la opinión de los demás de distinta procedencia. La falta de empatía siempre ha sido una característica nuestra, y la ofensa fácil es casi tan Venezolana como la arepa. Una de las grandes causas de nuestra actual catástrofe es precisamente esa falta de empatía.
    Lo que Cesar dice aquí es bien claro: una universidad que se alimenta en más de un 90% de estudiantes de colegios privados siendo ella misma publica es claramente elitista así lloren, chillen y pataleen ofendidos nuestros genios autóctonos de la Simon. Yo conocí a unos cuantos y todos eran como yo, clase media alta, cuidado si no un poco más que alta.
    Asi que dejen el drama, me recuerdan la reacción que hubo hacia “Caracas Ciudad de Despedidas”: mucho ofendido ofendiendo pero aportando poco.

    • Bravo! el mejor comentario de todos. Yo tambien me considero perteneciente a esa elite, tuve carro, apartamento y dinero que me ayudaron mucho a lograr un titulo por el que tuve que estudiar, pero hay que ser consciente que la carencia de medios lo hacen mucho mas dificil para quienes la sufren y es la rayon por la cual solo una muy pequeña minoria se puede dar el lujo.

  36. César,

    I read your post very throughly because I identify with most of your experience. I live in Catia and though it’s closer than Guatire, I had to deal with the Metro journeys to Chacaito and the lines to get to La Simón. However, I have to disagree with you on something: The USB itself it’s not elitist, the Venezuelan education system is. Why? I graduated from a public high-school in 2005. While most of my teachers were top-class (I basically didn’t require English courses and I could skip the English year once I entered USB), I didn’t have an organic chemistry teacher. Cool, my grade was 19 when I finished, an average mean of the other subjects. Organic chemistry was a pain in La Simón and I had to revisit it THREE times. In fact, I was admitted to USB via the Ciclo de Iniciación Universitaria (CIU), a pioneer program (starting 2005) created to help people just below the grade required. I will never forget that I’ve got 37.985 when 39.000 was needed at the time.

    The point you make with this post is (and correct me if I’m mistaken): La Simón is elitist but it isn’t its fault. A more appropiate statement would have been: La Simón serves more high class students because the public education system hinders low income people from entering it. I perceive a bit of frustration because you lived in far Guatire, but I’ve known other people coming from cities like Maracay or Puerto Ordaz and the lesser of their problems was the distance to their cities. I understand that you promoted the creation of a student route to Guatire and I congratulate you about that.

    Sure that La Simón has plenty of issues, bureaucracy at its finest for example (in many aspects of academic life), but calling it elitist? In that case, I wouldn’t have graduated or even have been admitted. Calling it elitist would mean denying efforts like CIU, PIO and scholarships.

  37. The USB is elitist in the sense that it takes in the academically best and brightest, nothing more. It is thanks to the Simon that you are in Europe with a job, and according to chavismo’s POV, now a part of the traitorous 1%.
    But elitist in the other sense only because there wasn’t enough transport or affordable housing to take you there? Eh…

    It’s unfair and completely out of left field, I think, to blame one of our best universities for things that are actually government shortcomings.
    You can criticize the fact that a majority of the students were upper or middle class with no clue about life outside Caracas, but you said it yourself: Public school students are woefully unprepared for what the USB demands. That’s not because of a plot between the USB and private schools, it’s again a consequence of past and current governments for not making public school systems better.

    I get what the image of a rich kid going to la USB and not paying a dime makes people think. But the sole concern should be that the rich kid is pulling his own weight just as hard as his public school counterparts, because that’s how a competence and merit-based system works. However outnumbered lower class students may be in la Simon, it still gives them the opportunity. If we want to see more representation, we have to put public schools on par with the private ones, not let more unprepared public school students into la Simon for the sake of appearances.

    • Exactly. And hardly anyone says a word about how Populist, under-achieving, below-mediocre, unfair to the best students and corrupted by Castro-Chavismo, the vast majority of of the other schools and Universities are getting with the pathetic “reformaj rebolusionariaj para el pueblo”.

  38. I read this :

    “Getting the Guatirepeople together was easy: we all sort of knew each other from waiting in line for buses in Petare. So we banded together and…..”

    I got so excited. I thought it would continue and say you banded together, put some savings up, got a loan, and bought a very, very old car and shared a ride every day. With the 6 hours saved in commute most got a part time job to pay down the loan and resourcefully solved the problem.

    However, my heart sank when I read that the solution was to demand for a bus to Guatire by blocking the entrances and exits to the University.

    So the solution was to demand for your problem to be fixed, not to creatively fix your problem yourself?

    I wasn’t inspired by your story, I was saddened by it.

    • I like how you think, and honestly I believe we were very resourceful and creative. I have to mention though a direct bus to the university is still a 2 hour drive on a good day. Maybe you will feel more inspired if you knew other things we did.

      Buying a car only solves the problem of 5 persons at a time, and you are forgetting something: if you had money for a car, you were probably better off renting a room close to the university.

      Buying a bus was certainly too much money for a bunch of college students. We also went to the major’s office, we wanted to create a public line Guatire-USB that we could pay for, because even after we got one bus, this was still running only one time each way, and it wasn’t nearly enough, for all the students. They also didn’t listen to us.

      Some of us later got a car, and we organized each other, if someone had an early or a late test you could call one of the guys with a car and they would sometimes be able to help. However, this still wasn’t enough.

      The days we had midterms at 7.30 we actually rented a bus, turns out, our bus driver friend knew other bus drivers that were willing to make some good money out a bunch of students. This solution however was way too expensive and we couldn’t afford it on a daily basis, so it was reserved for special occasions.

      The bus the university gave us was in no way a perfect solution, but it really helped. The point that I wanted to make with the story was that if a middle class student still has so much trouble actually going to the university, what do you think is left for someone from the lower class. Do you really think La Simón is an option even after he gets in? I honestly don’t think so. The fact that this has nothing to do with intelligence but with money is what really bothers me, and this is what we need to change.

      • Perhaps Chavismo will one day build another USB in Guatire or GUarenas, or some “socialista” regime will ever finish the ” Sede Camuri”… El detallito es que necesitas a un Raul Leoni, minimo. He would also improve the transportation and liceo problems..

  39. Why did you never consider moving to Caracas from Monday to Friday on a Residencia Estudiantil (Rented Housing for students) ? Many people from outside Caracas, too far away to conmute daily at least had this resource, some of which the University help locate in private homes.

  40. The main problem for me here is that you are saying that people were in La Simon just for being middle or upper class and I don’t think that’s right. I agree that some things are easier for middle upper class people but that doesn’t mean that they don’t put effort into it. you are saying that 93% of the people don’t deserve what they have when evidently you never took the time to talk to them without judging them. Did you take the time to talk to that girl more than once to judge her like that? You are sadly spreading what Venezuela’s government said to you: having money makes you bad

  41. I am a former student of the USB Sede del Litoral. Right now I am a student of a Master Program in the same university. I am sorry, but I have to say that I totally disagree with you. If only you were here to see what the USB is nowadays, you would not be thinking that way. The USB is a completely different university from.the rest of the public ones. One of its attractive is the location, far away.from.the caotic and noisy city. Unfortunately you lived far away from there, but you should not blame the university for that. It just happened to you, and that’s it. Right now a big percent of the students at the USB are middle class, just like you were at that time. They do not have a car and, they have to deal with traffic, insecurity, and other things to get to the university. They do not complain about it, they just struggle to accomplish their academic goals. Elitist? No way! Elitist are UCAB and Metropolitana. That is my opinion.

  42. I usually don’t comment when I disagree with someone online (it would take all of my time), and I disagree with you on mostly everything you wrote besides any actual facts presented.

    But what really bothers me, regardless if i agree with you or not, it’s the freaking ill-timed headline with such poorly chosen words. I’m sorry, but words have a context. You’re carnet 03, meaning that those things happened to you sometime between 2003-2008. So, it’s been anywhere from 12-7 years from the events you described, why then talk about this in a time when the USB that you love so much it’s even being taken to court for wanting to have a diagnostic test on students “imposed” to the uni? Le haces a la universidad un flaco favor. Thankfully, this website it’s kind of elitist itself (oh, the irony!) so I guess it won’t reach out that much and I should be able to get some sleep tonight.

    I want to believe you choose to talk about this now because you finally have a platform (?), but if you love the USB you don’t write a headline like this just right now. I think a better discussion would have been “how do we make the USB more inclusive without lowering the academic standards?” or something along those lines.

  43. Dont worry Ana, I hace posted a link to this post in the Egresados FB group, less “elitist”were Cesar Urbina also has responded. As you say, he is doing a not too good job of supporting the university where he studied. I think Francisco Toro could choose more constructive analysis of the current Venezuelan University situation…

    • Ana, yes! Mose, yes! I totally agree with you… I’m 97. Cannot believe that in the middle of the mess of the admission process, the exodus of the professors, the budget, etc… Caracas Chronicles focuses on whether the USB is elitist… seriously?

      • Why not? I mean isn’t that also a problem from the university? didn’t CC published an article saying how badly we were affecting social mobility because of the changes in the admission system? The truth hurts but at the end of the day is still the truth. And even if you question my love for the university of my moral intentions, 93% of students from USB came from Private Schools and the average student is middle class.

        • Disculpa Cesar, pero decir que 93% de los estudiantes viene de clase media y/o de escuelas privadas no es prueba de que la USB sea elitista. Podrían ser 100% y ni siquiera así sería prueba. ¿Por qué? Porque decir que es elitista significa que el proceso de admisión de la USB está sesgado a favor de los que tienen mejores condiciones económicas y en contra de los que no, pasando por encima de las condiciones académicas.

          Para poder demostrar que es elitista tendrías que mostrar que existe ese sesgo. Tendrías que mostrar que la universidad rechaza estudiantes mejores capacitados y admite en su lugar a estudiantes con más recursos económicos. Tendrías que mostrar, por ejemplo, que la proporción entre los mejores aplicantes es 85% pero entre los admitidos es 93%. Es decir que la universidad dejó por fuera a estudiantes que tenían las credenciales académicas para entrar.

          Por supuesto estoy asumiendo que coincidimos en que la mejor política para la USB es admitir de acuerdo a las capacidades académicas sin importar las condiciones económicas. Si esa no es tu opinión entonces el debate es por un tema distinto, un debate válido por cierto.

          Si la USB tiene que admitir a los 100 mejores estudiantes y de esos 100, 93 vienen de escuelas privadas, no ser elitista (o antielitista) significa admitir a esos 100 y no a otros.

        • I’m not questioning your love or your moral intentions. I’m just pointing out that the logic is flawed, as I said in a another comment. If you want students with a lower income, you have to improve the high schools, not blame the university. That makes no sense. And if you lived far way and that sucked, then transportation has to be improved. Again, is not the University’s fault. I took an average of 1.5 hours going, 1.5 hours coming back. Half of what you did but nevertheless is crazy. That’s Caracas fault. The city is a mess. And that has to be improved. But how is the USB to blame?. So, in the whole mess that we are right now, with the professors leaving the country plus the chaos in the admission process etc. you decide to focus in the fact that the education system is broken and blame the university for it?

          The only thing that proves that 93% of students in the USB came from private schools, is that the public system sucks.

          To blame the university for this is to follow the same chavista logic that has broken the country.

    • a) Bullying is wrong, I guess the university failed to teach you that.
      b) I will respond to everyone, I stand by every single one of my comments.
      c) I just happen to be one of the persons behind a campaign to donate funds to the teaching chemistry labs of USB last year so believe me when I say I love USB.
      d) Being critical is one of the things USB is failing to teach its graduates. You can say all you want but you can’t change reality. Facts over feelings my friend as a fellow scientist you should probably remember that.

  44. Es posible que parte de lo que diga sea verdad porque desde guatire no esta fácil, pero este tipo es un resentido y un idiota. Por cierto, esta página de Caracas chronicles está en inglés por algo? Por difusión quizás? Que alguien me explique por qué sólo una pequeña parte de la gente entiende tan mal spanglish, quiero decir… Ingles peorro…

    • Oh por dios!

      Yo creo mas bien que Venezuela es un pais de idiotas y resentidos…. transversalmente en la sociedad (como dirian los cientificos sociales), es decir, no importa si tienes plata o no, o si estudiaste en la Simon o la Central, lo mas seguro es que si eres Venezolano eres asi (o un poco asi) sin animo de ofender a nadie claro.

      Lo del spanglish no lo se, yo decidi dejar de comentar en ingles cuando me di cuenta de lo peorro que se estaba volviendo mi espannol tambien 😉

    • ¡Ay papá! Como que te sentiste aludida con lo del mandibuleo.

      Por cierto, tu última oración sólo tiene sentido si escribes “porque” y no “por qué”. Antes de quejarte del inglés peorro de la página, aprende a escribir en español.

  45. Amen to that! I know La Simón well and can vouch for what you say. The vast majority of people at USB are from El Este, have a car, or can afford to rent a room in the area. The difficulties you went through are very easy to ignore in such a privileged environment.

    • “The vast majority of people at USB are from El Este, have a car, or can afford to rent a room in the area. The difficulties you went through are very easy to ignore in such a privileged environment.”

      ¿Hay alguna estadística que respalde tal afirmación o solamente estamos hablando gamelote sin fundamento?

  46. Cesar,

    I did not agree with your premise and still don’t. However, in this posting, your article touched on some important points that obviously needed to be examined and you opened up one hell of a good debate! Thank you and well done.

    • Thanks, I agree with you in thinking that debating is very important.
      I would like to know what is it you disagree? is it the fact that the average student from USB is middle class? is it the fact that being middle class in a country were 80% is lower class is being part of an elite? or is it the fact that 93% of students who enter via the admission test come from private schools?

      • A good debate forces people to examine their prejudices and preconceptions. A great debate can actually change minds.

        What I disagree with:

        1. Firstly, what rubbed me the wrong way was that, after having been given a free education, you also felt you were entitled to better transportation and felt that it was the school’s obligation to organize it and provide it for you. There were many other ways you could have addressed the problem without trying to make it the school’s problem. The “elitist” administrator you approached, was in charge of managing a university, not a “colegio” (high school). Try looking at the situation from her perspective.

        2. I disagree with your use of the term “elitist” as a pejorative. See my rather long discourse on this above.

        3. As others pointed out, the fact that most of the students come from private schools speaks to the quality of public education, and not to the university’s policies. The fact that even 7% of the students come from public schools indicates that they are making efforts to reach out.

        Finally, I would like to make a point that it is not often that efforts to raise people from much lower socio-economic class to a much higher one succeed. The transformation of a cockney girl, Eliza Doolittle, into a refined Victorian lady with an aristocratic accent in “My Fair Lady” made for a good movie, but it just doesn’t work that way in practice. We should be content, as a society, to raise the status of individuals one class level at a time. (FYI: I really dislike defining and labeling classes, but I don’t know how to avoid it) An example of what I am talking about is when athletes achieve success and wealth very young and then get in trouble because they just don’t have the emotional and social maturity to deal with it. Another example might be some of the Chavista politicians who are now far more wealthy and powerful but without the sense of responsibility that should come with it.

        In general, I think that your post displayed unrealistic expectations of what it is a possible for a society to achieve. If a society can assist twenty percent of the individuals in any given class to manage to improve themselves and jump to the next class level, so that their children are born into and raised in that class level, I would count that as a complete success. No society can improve itself overnight. Part of the problems associated with petro-states has been that the individuals in the society acquire wealth and prosperity much faster than they acquire the moral values to manage it.

        I hope this helps clarify where I was coming from.

        • Dear Roy,
          Thanks for replying. If only more people were as kind and educated I think we could solve all our differences in an eyeblink. I would like to address every one of your points so allow me to start.

          1.- Please read the reply to Miguel, there I addressed all the other ways we tried to solve our problem. Now, the university says it is inclusive and that everyone has the same opportunities. I guess we can both agree this is a huge overstatement, how can we claim that if we can’t provide equal access to one of the most remote locations around the capital to all students? The truth is most people will be discouraged to study at USB just because is so far and unreachable by public transport, there are no other public buses heading to USB that don’t belong to the university. So if we needed a public bus, sadly it had to come from USB.

          2.- I never used Elitist as a pejorative word. I simply used it. The pejorative tone is coming from people who feel somehow offended by the reality of the facts, the university is serving a reduced group of people, it is elitist. Those people happen to be mainly middle class. So we are a socioeconomic elite whether we want to accept it or not.

          3.- Agreed 100%, I didn’t blame the university for the current socioeconomic status of its students. I just pointed out the fact that they are mainly middle class. Please read carefully again, and tell me exactly where I said such thing. I do however believe that the university has to be more inclusive, and denying that possibility is morally wrong.

          I believe my post displayed a reality of the university that as you can see reading the comment sections many fail to acknowledge, I wrote it as a reply to Alejandro’s post about how the university was a motor for social mobility, I just wanted to write how it really isn’t. I believe we can do more than just denying reality, we can actually change the curse of things if we acknowledge our problems and work to find a solution. It might appear naive, I know!, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to do such thing.

  47. “Granted, she wasn’t like 100% of the students from La Simón, just like 93%. That’s a rough estimate, but then 93% of students that enter through the admission test did graduate from private schools.”

    ¿Tú sabes que el haber estudiado en un colegio privado no implica que tu familia tenga grandes recursos económicos, verdad? ¿lo sabes?

    Bastante sesgada, tu visión.

    • I do know it. Being even lower middle class puts you among the top 20% earner in Venezuela. It might not be much but you are still better off than 80% of the country.

      Plus there is this…
      http://www.saber.ula.ve/bitstream/123456789/38391/1/articulo12.pdf

      The money quotes:
      “Los resultados referentes al índice de atributos socioeconómicos sugieren que la mayoría de los estudiantes se ubican en estratos medios y medio-altos, ya que la media es 29 sobre 38 y el 50% de los casos están sobre 30 puntos”

      So yes, there is data. I’m not blindsided. I hope you can see that.

      • Creo que tu “So yes, there is data” viene por este comentario:

        “¿Hay alguna estadística que respalde tal afirmación o solamente estamos hablando gamelote sin fundamento?”

        En respuesta a esta perlita:

        “The vast majority of people at USB are from El Este, have a car, or can afford to rent a room in the area. The difficulties you went through are very easy to ignore in such a privileged environment.”

        Has pegado un salto lógico que te podría hacer merecedor de una medalla de oro en salto largo en un mundial de atletismo.

        En cuanto a lo demás, te lo han explicado ya bastantes veces, pero aparentemente no has sido capaz de entenderlo: la USB no es elitista en lo que tiene que ver con condiciones socioeconómicas. Ese no es, nunca ha sido, nunca será un criterio para seleccionar a los estudiantes. El problema es que la educación pública está mucho peor de lo que está la educación privada (y eso es decir bastante). ¿Necesitas reclamar algo a alguien? Fácil: reclámale al gobierno una educación de calidad desde el preescolar hasta la diversificada.

        • Dear Frank,

          I was showing the data that agrees with my statements, I wrote:

          “Going back to the 93% of sifrinos, that’s an exaggeration, I realize that. Not everyone who comes up through private school and ends up in La Simón has a daddy-bought car and lives in el este del este, of course. And yet a study by Prof. Nelly Fernandez regarding the profile of USB students concluded that your average USB-Joe belongs to the middle or upper-middle class. ”

          The data I showed you agrees with that. I can only respond for what I wrote. I am aware that not everyone lives en el Este. I mean, I studied there, do you really think I was the only one from guatire? we had a bus full with people for one reason. The point is even I am middle class, and that’s the problem, if someone with significant amount of resources like me, can have such trouble to attend USB, do you really think someone lower class has the slightest chance? I don’t think so, and again, that’s why I complain.

          I agree with you, the cause of the problem has little to do with the university, now to say that they university can’t do anything to fix it is different. It can do more. I am only pointing out a fact, if someone says USB is mainly middle class, that’s absolutely true. And I hope you understand how terrible that is, regardless of the causes. It’s a problem we have to accept before we can do anything to fix it, and as you can see, the vast majority refuses to understand that.

          • “I am only pointing out a fact, if someone says USB is mainly middle class, that’s absolutely true.”

            Usted, Urbina, como científico que es, debería saber que no todo es mostrar los datos. Hay que analizarlos e interpretarlos. ¿Qué significa ser de clase media en la Venezuela actual? ¿qué significaba serlo a principios de este siglo y a finales del pasado? ¿podía un hijo de la clase media recibir un carro de regalo a los 18 años? algunos, quizá. Ciertamente no “la gran mayoría”.

            Noto incluso algo de misoginia en sus comentarios sobre la presidenta del Centro de Estudiantes de entonces. A quien, por otra parte, no conozco.

            “And I hope you understand how terrible that is, regardless of the causes. It’s a problem we have to accept before we can do anything to fix it, and as you can see, the vast majority refuses to understand that.”

            No, no lo entiendo. Ahí es donde diferimos insalvablemente. Las universidades no tienen por qué tener una composición socioeconómica determinada. Terrible sería que te prohibieran ingresar por tu procedencia, cosa que no ocurre en la USB. Si tu condición económica del momento te impide estudiar, puedes pedir una beca. Actualmente no sirven para nada, es cierto. Se hace lo que se puede con lo que se tiene y con un presupuesto reconducido desde el 2007 combinado con la inflación de los últimos años, es poco lo que puede hacerse. O puedes trabajar también, buscarte la vida. No serás el primero ni el último.

            Y si todavía así no puedes estudiar tal vez tengas problemas más acuciantes que resolver que ese. Triste, sí. Nadie dijo que la vida tuviera que ser justa. Más aún: nunca lo es.

            La universidad no es un mecanismo de movilidad social. Repito: la universidad NO es un mecanismo de movilidad social. Sé que es una idea muy arraigada en la mentalidad latinoamericana y parte de la “mística” de la universidad gratuita y autónoma (como escribió Carlos Rangel). Siento ser el que le diga de este modo que Papá Noel no existe. ES lo que hay.

            Las USB, en particular, fue creada para responder a las necesidades científicas y tecnológicas de un país que entonce estaba en ascenso y tenía una industria nacional muchísimo más vigorosa que el cadáver que tenemos hoy en día por aparato productivo. La USB en particular y la universidad pública en general, está en el deber de administrar bien sus recursos (que son recursos públicos) y asegurarse de que sean invertidos en quienes de verdad puedan aprovecharlos, independientemente de que vengan del Country Club, de José Félix Ribas, en Petare, de un colegio público o de uno privado. Cualquier otra cosa sería deshonesta y demagógica para con el resto de la sociedad y es un “lujo” que no puede permitirse una institución consagrada a la búsqueda de la verdad.

            Y el sentido de la oportunidad (el “timing” para que me entiendan) de este artículo es lamentable.

            En un aparte: el autor es venezolano, los comentaristas son venezolanos, el tema no intersa allende nuestras fronteras ¿a santo de qué el artículo y los comentarios están todos en ingles? ¿sifrinismo? ¿complejos de inferioridad? Paradójico quejarse de elitismo y exclusión… en un idioma que la mayoría de los venezolanos no domina. Ahí queda eso.

  48. Another set of figures from 2013: applied for examination: 78.44 Private schools, 16.09% public schools 5.47% semi-private, total applied 8112 students (page 35 report) .

    Admitted: 92.49% private, 3.26% public, 4.25% semi-private, total admitted. 1412 students (page 42).

    See here http://www.usb.ve/admision_informes/integrado_2013.pdf

    Now, if only 16% of the total of students who apply for admission come from public schools, you cannot pretend to have a higher figure admitted ….

  49. Contempt, reckless, naively… three words i have in mind right now. Desde mi humilde punto de vista; me pregunto: Gracias a la educación gratuita que recibiste y ahora eres- segun tu propia descripción – un investigador elite en Europa, cabe preguntarse si tus hijos seran “sifrinos” o “hijitto de papá”. Estas condenando en restrospectiva lo que tu propio hogar es o será: un padre de familia que meritoriamente busca la mejor educación y oportunidad para sus hijos… como mi padre y muchos otros hicieron. Mi papá era un hombre que llegó con una mano “alante y otra atrás” con 14 años de edad a vender periodicos sin saber que decian. Tus padres son docentes, pero probablemente tus abuelos no… se reventaron el lomo para que tus progenitores estudiaran y luego ellos, echaran palante contigo y ahora eres un profesional de elite y seguro querrás que tus hijos también lo sean. Así que panita, el rollo no es la universidad ni los padfres ni los sifrinos, es la gente misma que tiene que saberse trazar un futuro por su cuenta.

    Si de elitismo puro se tratara. Kim jong-un deberia ser “mejior dictador” que su padre Kim Jong-il. Pero hasta los mismos norcoreanos se estan dando cuenta que es un pobre loco de carretera, por más Zurich y Londres que tenga encima.

    Sifrino, no es un estatus social ni capacidad intelectual o poder economico. Es una burda actitud de quienes carecen de personalidad y consiguen en la discriminación, una identidad propia. Yo era sifrino ? yo naci en Turén, Portuguesa, orgulloso llanero; en mis tiempos tenia un Honda Civic ultimo modelo con sonido, kit deportivo y todos sus juguetes… más arrecho que los que venian de Hebraica, Emil Friedman entre otros. Entonces dime tu: soy de elite porque mi papá tenia cancer en la piel de tanto llevar sol en el llano trabajando? o soy sifrino porque vengo de Turen y podia confundir a la gente pensando que era de Torino?

    No, no. La elite es un punto de inflexión donde tu determinas que tu vida va a cambiar para siempre, con tu fuerza, coraje y ganas de echarle bolas a la vida.

  50. Bravo Roberto!!
    Es irónico que quien hable de élite: haya decido escribir el artículo en inglés, haya pertenecido a un pequeño grupo de niños virtuosos y con oportunidades que otros no tienen, haya sido de los 8 que quedaron de su colegio, pertenezca a un reducido grupo de la población mundial que tiene un PhD y hoy pertenezca a un grupo miniritario de venezolanos que vive en el exterior. Y como casi todos, se queje porque nadie entendió su problema personal, en este caso particular el transporte para la universidad.

    Irónico también que aquellos que han etiquetado a la USB como una ‘universidad elitésca’ pertenezcan al selecto grupo de personas que ejerce el poder político en el país desde hace casi 20 años!!!

    Me pregunto, si el transporte era un tema tan complicado, por qué decidir estudiar en la ‘elitésca’ USB (pese a todo lo que mandibuleo, me niego a llamarla ‘La Simón’ en lenguaje escrito)? Por qué no haber estudiado en la UCV, por ejemplo? En la UNEFA o en la Bolivariana, que ya había sido fundada para ese entonces?

    El concepto de universidad es elitesco es sí mismo, porque nos guste o no, a ella tienen acceso sólo un ‘privilegiado’ sector de la población (y no hablo de aquellos que tienen recursos económicos). En países como el nuestro, todo aquel que haya haya hecho estudios superiores, en cualquier centro de estudios, pertenece a una élite; todo aquel que viva en una solución habitacional que haya sido erigido en terrenos con cédula catastral (así viva alquilado), con agua corriente, con gas directo, con sistemas de relecolección de basura, también pertenece a una élite; incluso, aquellos que reciben dinero de las misiones también son parte de una minoría/ grupo selecto.

    Tu problema de ‘transporte’ también lo vivían aquellos que tenían carro y que vivían fuera de Caracas (La Guaira, San Antonio, Los Teques…), o quienes vivían en ‘elitescas’ zonas de Caracas, pero no tenían carro. Todos pasaban por la misma penuria de parárse entre las 4:30 y las 5:00 am si tenías clases a las 7:30. Incluso, a aquellos que vivíamos bastante más cerca de las paradas y que nos podíamos dar ‘el lujo’ de salir de casa a 5:50 ó 6:00 para tomar el bus en Chacaíto en intentar llegar a clases a las 7:30, nos pasaba exactamente lo mismo: nos cerraban la puerta del salón en la cara porque gracias al grupo de ‘coleados’ no podíamos tomar el bus a tiempo, o porque en Tazón hubo un accidente y simplemente no llegaste, o porque ‘el San Ruperto’ de las 6:20 se quedó a medio camino.

    Sabes realmente de donde viene el problema contra la USB? De que el ‘comandante intergaláctico’ fue expulsado por no haber inscrito más de tres timestres seguidos por haber estado preso por un delito que en otro país jamás prescribe, y que equivocadamente fueron ‘borrados’ de un plumazo por aquel que en su primer gobierno cerró la UCV.

    Al final, todo se trata de EGOS y sobre todo de egos heridos. César, cuenta tus Bendiciones en lugar de envidiar las de aquellos que están a tu alrededor. Eso evitará que tu ego se resienta y te ayudará a pensar más en el colectivo desde cada uno de los grupos de élite al que hoy perteneces…

  51. Dear Moses,
    I get your point, we can’t aim for more students from public schools if they don’t even register to take the test. That’s 100% true.
    Now let’s just as a fun exercise calculate the success rate of student form public schools vs the success rate of students from private schools. Public = 3%, Private = 20%. We have a big problem here. Regardless of the root, is a problem the university has to address. USB can’t just pretend is not happening, Pana, hay que dejar de ser tan cara de tabla and accept the facts.
    USB is serving mainly the middle class. That’s a problem and we need to fix it.

  52. The basic problem is not the university , the basic problem lies with the lower quality of the education most public schools appear to give which hinder public school students from meeting the standards for entering the university , the university may be guilty of not giving people with less resources than the average facilities that they specifically need (buses , some leeway in being late for lectures) , but it cant be blamed for the shoddy job that public schools are doing in educating their pupils .

    Assumming the govt provides the resources the university might try to assuage the situation of the public school students by creating an accesible place (outside campus) where promising public school students are given special preparation classes so more of them can enter the university . this way public school students who show promise might be able to improve their chances of entering the university and a more balanced social mix of students take advantage of what the university has to offer.

    • I agree 100%, this however doesn’t change the fact that the university as of 2013 was accepting mainly privately educated students.

  53. Me pregunto, estimado César, ¿cuántas Universidades privadas o públicas en el mundo the hubiesen dado transporte gratuito todo los días para cubrir tus 100 Km de desplazamiento diario? Es que en Venezuela, la mayoría siente que tiene derecho a algo, y que las organizaciones y/o el Estado deben proveer. Una cuestión cultural. Un problema cultural.

    Sin embargo, me duele que tú en tu momento, y personas en una situación similar a la tuya, no hayan podido o hayan tenido dificultad en lograr sus metas debido a la desigualdad de oportunidades que existe en Venezuela.

    Pero me parece desproporcionado poner la culpa de problemas como el que tu presentas en una Organización Universitaria como la USB. Yo no creo que la USB esté al servicio de una élite, está al servicio de la excelencia académica. Y en Venezuela desgraciadamente esto no se consigue mayoritariamente en las clases menos pudientes. Esto es un problema de educación a nivel nacional, que lleva décadas, que una universidad que apenas puede mantenerse en pie puede resolver. Estoy seguro que tu conseguiste tu cupo en la USB porque eras suficientemente bueno para estar allí, aún cuando no eras parte de la llamada élite.

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