Each and every academic year begins with humiliating and degrading rituals inflicted on the “novatos”. These “greeting ceremonies” are only called greeting: during these “initiation rites” students are supposed to learn the elementary laws of the community to which they belong. Humiliation and violence toward the new students explain why it is more practiced in the establishments where the Alumni Office is powerful and often determines a future career.
Within universities, these practices are less widespread. Although a few corporatist “traditions” remain, the student unions are able to restrict such activities and the growing number of students no longer allows a small group of individuals to claim legitimate power to impose a hazing session: they have neither the material capacity nor adequate tools for doing it: the penalty is the main engine of debasement.
Today, after a collective awareness of the seriousness of the situation, the Act of 1998 prohibits such practices and provides heavy penalties. The mechanisms become more perverse. If the debutants will raise funds for humanitarian organizations or repaint a room, the degrading spirit may remain in more pernicious way…
It was when the notion of moral violence appeared. In higher education, it may take a variety of forms: verbal violence when a teacher verbally abuses his first year students, imposing them continually the same tune on the decline in their general level, the poverty of their vocabulary, the inability to write… or worse. Only a boycott of course can mobilize the direction of the institution, forced then to solve the problem… by the settlement since it does not have the legal tools for possible sanctions. Still it is necessary that students revolted against these humiliating words. Often, the verbal violence is sustained. The rare cases have often been identified by student unions, accustomed to stand their ground. This violence is violence of form, and this is where the difficulty lies: how to place the boundary between simple criticism and sadistic abuse?
Violence that affects teaching process or political life is more easily identifiable. It mobilizes the various political forces. At the extreme, and it is where violence occurs, when a University Professor is a revisionist, he is immediately revoked. When the anarcho-syndicalists faces the shots of baseball bat by the GUD in the campus corridors, political violence starts to make sense. If accidents continue to exist, they seem to be exceptions confirming the rule: political violence is now less widespread.
Has the campus always been a rather peaceful place where knowledge was transmitted for the greater good of research? Thinking about it this way would mean to cut it from the world that surrounds it and to neglect the degradation of social relationships in general.
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