The University, the Law and its Social Role During COVID-1
The legal sector is compelled to regulate and offer solutions and responses to our new reality
Cláudia Mansani Queda de Toledo and José Luiz Ragazzi, partners at Tortoro, Madureira & Ragazzi Advogados
While protecting the individual, the essential role of the university is to be the gatekeeper of education, of hopes for advancements in healthcare and of great ideas that safeguard democracy, both in the relations between individuals and those concerning the state. To paraphrase Anísio Teixeira, the university must exert its role as a gatekeeper because it is a “mansion of freedoms, an environment where thoughts should be as free as the air.”
On this basis, we can see how the arrival of COVID-19 has brought the study of social structures to the surface and how they have deteriorated, bringing an era of uncertainty to humanity. From a global perspective, all consolidated constructions that configure the world, such as notions of concretization of subjective public rights, universal rights, as well as rights to health and life have clearly been relativized along with a clear rupture of the entire linear structure that legal scientists built in free society. Considering this, the law is compelled to regulate and offer solutions, or rather, responses to our new reality or to ensure a solid basis for the rights to a dignified life.
There are present and future woes facing the state of global economy, health, subsistence, production, work relations, contracts, legal certainty, fundamental rights, our very existence and life’s one surety: the end of human life, keeping us in a continuous state of dealing with consensus and conflict.
With this paradigm shift, the linear era has emerged to call into question the social role of the university, which had formerly been the greatest symbol of the monopoly of knowledge and was challenged to not just lead social changes and transformations, forsaking its critical roles to be a coadjutant of human survival itself.
But how can a university assume this role with around 1 million cases of infection during the pandemic in Brazil and 50 thousand further deaths?
Many answers are due, the first being that the greatest responsibility of the university is its young people. It’s mission, to use education to prepare them for a lifetime of further training and development. For this reason, focusing on the young people of today is essential.
Furthermore, the university must maintain the students’ study routines and research, their integration with the faculty and the academic projects, diminishing oppression and providing strength during these difficult and solitary times. What seems now to be entirely individual will later been seen as preserving the “parts” that will later go on to form society as a whole.
More than ever, educational and research institutions must welcome young people, setting aside their nature of being an assessor to show them that they will be the driving force behind their education and intellectual integrity.
Additionally, it should be recognized that this structuralism needs to be overcome to meet the uncontrollable empirical complexity, especially for legal professionals who typically deal with fictional realities. In such a challenging scenario, the struggle for knowledge through research cannot be an individual phenomenon in order to reaffirm that apart from being a
center of knowledge, the university is also an ideological and political nucleus, capable of legitimizing collective and social projects. Individual intentions must provide a space in which groups can develop social security and scientific recognition; a balance greatly needed during the ongoing pandemic.
The disease, across the world just as much as in Brazil, reminds us of the words of Helmholtz, a great scholar of the theory of the conservation of force, who in 1862 wrote about the collective dimension of the university, according to which each one of us must consider ourselves not just as one who is thirsty for knowledge, in pursuit of specific interests or striving for our own brilliance, but a mere collaborator in the great common effort for the highest interests of humanity.
In availing ourselves to the strength of constitutional history since its consolidation in 1946, we see the value of education being guided by the ideals of human solidarity.
Therefore, from the pandemic and its disruption to structure, the university, as a center of educational development, emerges an exclusive and indispensable institution through which knowledge in the sense of the disruptor of individual intentions will continue to develop the research and education as a cross-generational ethos that keeps knowledge alive.
In summary, the conclusions that overturn the social and legal roles of the university will be those which: i) develop technologies that allow academia to permanently exist online, bringing together global perspectives on healing, survival and particularly the law and its recommendations and affirmations to facilitate better forms of human interaction during this period; ii) propose total flexibility of educational practices and research ethics in public administration regulations to suggest that life is worth more than anything else; iii) provide regulation for the integration of science in Brazilian graduate studies, the prestige of working from home, and all situations that sublimate the contagion risks stemming from the pandemic; iv) commit to shaping and disseminating true and relevant information across society and to protect the right to information in all its possible forms; v) resume the concept of education for social solidarity suggested in the 1946 Constitution; vi) replace individualism with a scientific perspective in its collective dimensions; vii) structure solutions for the social evils that add to the chaos of the pandemic, such as poverty and social inequality.