Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tis the season...of calouros - São Paulo

Trote USP style. Photo credit: Instituto Luiz Gama

Yesterday as I went to pick up my kids from their afternoon activities, I noticed that the new season was upon us. No, not fall (southern hemisphere, remember), not the recent time change, but rather the season of "trotes" -- the hazing of new students (freshmen or "calouros"). I was approached at three separate stoplights by the painted people.

I admit to having very little patience with the University of São Paulo (USP) students. They are arguably the smartest in the land (and privileged--more than 60% of them went to private school in order to be able to get in there), but incredibly immature in many aspects. Of course, most 17 and 18 year olds are, we all just don't know it at the time. 

Last year they closed down the campus and destroyed various items in the administration building in a fit of spite because they, the students who pay not a dime for their excellent university education, do not have a say in choosing their rector. Personally, I think I should have a say in choosing the rector--my tax dollars are paying for these kids to go to school. For free. All four years. And do the kids have to pay for their destruction? No. In terms of university education, these guys are getting the best the country has to offer. In terms of practical education for life, they are becoming convinced that they are better than everyone else. I guess you can tell what I think of that.

As I posted last week, one of the hazing activities of the Engineering students was spraying each other with high-pressure water hoses. In the middle of the worst drought ever faced in this state. Editorial comment: "duh." 

But the most common hazing activity is to paint up the freshmen, with USP on their foreheads and who knows what else, and send them out to street corners to beg for money. This money is to buy their first beers. Editorial comment: "wtf?"

This goes on for days. First the pharmacy students, then the social sciences, etc etc. I am tired of being asked for money from people at street corners, much less from people who are doing the important job of drinking a beer. If you are so desperate for food you stand at a corner and humiliate yourself to ask for money, that is one thing. This silliness is another. 

I do not love people approaching my car. I do not love the thought of teenagers approaching the cars of people who may not even be as polite as I am (I shake my head and say "sorry" though I'm not). This could in fact be dangerous to their health as well as scary to the people they are approaching. 

Seriously, do you want your kid doing this? Source here

By the way, this type of "trote" is illegal.The Military Police in fact can stop it if they want to. Most of the time, they have something else to do. And I agree with that--I don't want these kids taking the cops away from what they should be doing which is stopping real crime. But the whole theory that this is a "rite of passage" to become an adult, is hilarious to me. What about begging for something for nothing is part of being an adult?  This is not a good education.

I may sound like an old crank in all of this, but shouldn't we be encouraging these smarties to do something worthwhile with their orientation week? Giving back to a community that they have largely NOT come from. Almost 80% of USP students are white while demographic sources say that 55% of São Paulo is (this is a hard number to come by as there is a lot of ethnic mixing in Brazil). Why don't they all get painted up while fixing up Jardim São Remo, the community or favela that provides many of USP's workers? Or a public school where the majority have not even set foot in their quest to enter the best of the universities.

Of all the types of hazing I know of, including downing large quantities of alcohol, simulating sex with inanimate or edible objects (bananas spring to mind), and eating bugs, this is pretty harmless. But it could be better: like giving back...that is the "rite of passage" to maturity. 

Source: Instituto Luiz Gama


  1. With you 100%. I hate it when kids ask for money in the street for some activity or cause. When I lived in New Jersey I learned it is standard there for high school cheerleaders, football players and others to go "canning." I call it "begging." Disgraceful and teaches no virtue. I'd be furious if it were for something as frivolous and stupid as beer.

  2. Ever given them one centavo.
    I'd be pissed if I were homeless and begging and saw them having fun doing it. Not cool.

  3. Here is another student "right of passage" I was shocked to hear - this one exclusively for law students called "pindura" (to pay a tab later). My wife, who studied at USP law, explained that for one week every August, law students eat at restaurants -- upscale restaurants in SP -- and simply refuse to pay the bill! They either walk out when the bill arrives or explain to the waiter that this is a law school tradition and they will not be paying today.