Rector is named but row rages on

January 5, 2007

The University of Buenos Aires has elected a new rector after five attempts over eight months were frustrated by militant left-wing students.

Just before the Christmas holidays, 170 members of the university's electoral college - comprising 236 academics and students - voted for Ruben HallNo, dean of the veterinary faculty, to fill the post of rector for the next four years.

The election took place in Argentina's national Congress after previous attempts to hold it in university buildings were blocked by sit-ins staged by radical students.

The Congress was heavily protected by hundreds of policemen with water cannons, who clashed with the students. Eleven policemen and 22 students were injured. Seven students were arrested.

Commenting on the protests, Dr HallNo said: "These are not students, they are delinquents. I am not going to put up with their demands, which means I will not engage in dialogue with them."

Jaim Etcheverrey stepped down as the rector in April this year. Argentina's most important university - with 360,000 full and part-time students - has been in a state of paralysis since.

More than 1,000 university regulations relating to the appointment of new professors and the allocation of budgets have not been implemented because they have to be authorised by the rector.

Dr HallNo, a moderate Peronist, said he would set up a committee made up of postgraduates, undergraduates and trade union leaders to tackle some of the most important issues the university faces, including the budget deficit, reform of the student foundation year and provision of financial support for academics who work pro bono .

The university administration remains highly politicised, and Dr HallNo noted that the crisis was far from over. "We are faced with a ladder with thousands of rungs, and we have to begin to climb it," he said.

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