Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): UC Forum addresses the new Institute of Applied Ethics and the work of the Constitutional Convention

These two aspects were analyzed in the recent meeting of the Forum, which was born five years ago aimed at reflecting on relevant issues for the institution, and which, in the words of the rector Ignacio Sánchez, “is becoming a benchmark, a space for very interesting dialogue and discussion for the university, with great attendance, welcome and group spirit”.

A high call and participation marked the last session of the UC University Forum , last Wednesday, April 13. The meeting brought together 50 members in person, in addition to those who did it via zoom.

The initiative debuted in 2017, as a space for reflection and exchange to discuss issues of interest to the institution. Today, after five years of operation, it has become a meeting point of vital importance for the coexistence of the community. Its members meet in four annual sessions, two per semester, to analyze and express concerns on important issues for the advancement of the institution.

In this last session of the Forum, two topics of great interest were addressed: the future Institute of Applied Ethics, in charge of the professor of the Faculty of Biological Sciences Juan Larraín , who leads the project of this institute at UC; and the work of the Constituent Convention, with the participation of professors Alejandra Ovalle and Patricio Zapata, from the Faculty of Law, and Juan Pablo Luna and Valeria Palanza, from the Institute of Political Science.



“The Applied Ethics program that the university is implementing was very well received, and had important contributions; as well as the presentation of professors of Law and Political Science on the current state of the Constituent Convention.” – Rector Ignacio Sánchez.

The conference was chaired by the rector Ignacio Sánchez, who highlighted the arrival of new members to the Forum. “We received the two members who were chosen from different parts of the university community to join to work with about 60 people, including undergraduate and graduate students, professors, researchers, deans, alumni, representatives of professionals, civil servants, administrators and deans”, he points out.

Likewise, the rector referred to the topics addressed in the opportunity, “the Applied Ethics program that the university is implementing was very well received, and had important contributions; as well as the presentation of professors of Law and Political Science on the current state of the Constituent Convention, its achievements, its progress, its problems, pending issues and the next steps to prepare this document that will be submitted to an exit plebiscite. We have already had it on three other occasions in meetings of the Superior Council, but this is the first time that we invite professors who have been closely following the course of the Constituent Convention to the Forum”.

For the rector, “the UC Forum is becoming a benchmark, a very interesting space for dialogue and discussion for the university, with great attendance, great reception and group spirit”.

In addition, he anticipates that the next session will be in June, and that opinions are already being collected to have the most appropriate topics at the next meeting. “I appreciate the great interest in participation and, above all, the collegial and collaborative spirit, the sense of university community and the common good that has been shown in this UC Forum”, comments the rector.



“I appreciate the great interest in participation and, above all, the collegial and collaborative spirit, the sense of university community and the common good that has been shown in this UC Forum.” – Rector Ignacio Sánchez.


A new institute for UC
The Institute of Applied Ethics is an interdisciplinary academic unit that will depend on all the faculties and whose creation will soon be proposed to the H. Superior Council .

Juan Larraín explains that this institute will contribute to training, research and contribution to the country on issues of ethical relevance such as the environment, the distribution of wealth, animal ethics, the ethics of communications, technology and data science , among others.

“It will have a special focus on developing the habit of ethical discernment in all members of the community, as well as the contribution to ethical reflection on our own work as a university institution,” says the researcher from the Faculty of Biological Sciences.



“The Institute of Applied Ethics will contribute to training, research and contribution to the country on issues of ethical relevance such as the environment, the distribution of wealth, animal ethics, the ethics of communications, technology and data science. , among others”.- Juan Larraín.


Constitutional Convention
The second major issue that was discussed in the Forum was the work of the Constituent Convention, a conversation that was led by Professor Patricio Zapata.

In relation to the progress of the process in terms of constitutional content, the academic Alejandra Ovalle points out that the new Constitution is seen as considerably extensive or developed, in which principles abound over precise legal rules and which regulates aspects of detail that are specific to the legislation. “Paradoxically, these characteristics deepen the main shortcomings attributed to the current Constitution: its democratic deficit and the existence of doctrinal definitions that respond to the political vision of a certain sector of society,” says the professor of the Faculty of Law .

He explains that “a maximalist constitution reduces the scope of action and the decision-making capacity of political bodies, expanding the margin of discretion of the courts. In turn, it conspires against the purpose of achieving a constitution that welcomes and convenes a large part of our country.”


“A maximalist constitution reduces the scope of action and the decision-making capacity of political bodies, expanding the margin of discretion of the courts. In turn, it conspires against the purpose of achieving a constitution that welcomes and convenes a large part of our country.” Alexandra Ovalle.

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For her part, Professor Valeria Palanza referred to the work of the Political System Commission of the Constitutional Convention , affirming that the political process, contrary to what the media represents, has made important advances in terms of closing the gaps between the positions with which various conventions arrived at the Convention. “The last agreement reached, partially rejected in plenary, laid the foundations to work towards a system with a presidency with attenuated powers with respect to those established in the current Constitution, and an asymmetric bicameralism in the legislative branch,” adds the academic of the Institute of Political Science.

“It is necessary to emphasize how difficult it is to reach agreements between sectors that brought very diverse positions at the beginning. What has been agreed upon at the time may be liked more or less by each person, but it cannot be ignored that it is the result of a process that brought positions closer together. There is still work to be done, given that there is still no agreement regarding the powers conferred on the Chamber of the Regions, about which there is an academic consensus regarding the need to strengthen it to give force to the regional decentralization process that has been faced”, he specifies.



“It will be important that, before the exit plebiscite, citizens can reflect on the reasons that led them to approve the constitutional process rather than on the details that they would have preferred to be different, and that we all have confidence in the democratic procedures to define the future of the country. Valerie Palanza.


He ends by emphasizing that whatever agreement is reached, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is the fruit of a democratic process in which citizenship has been represented in its diversity as never before in the history of Chile. “It will be important that, before the exit plebiscite, citizens can reflect on the reasons that led them to approve the constitutional process rather than on the details that they would have preferred to be different, and that we all have confidence in the democratic procedures to define the future of the country”, he maintains.

Finally, and based on the comments and questions from the members of the University Forum, the academics referred to the role of our university in this important process that is taking place in the country. In this regard, Professor Alejandra Ovalle, who directs the UC Constitutional Forum, highlights that “important efforts have been made at UC -individual and collective- to contribute loyally to the constituent process, from an academic perspective and consistent with our identity” .

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