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The Portuguesemarker term praxe (from the Greek praxis (πρᾱξις)) describes the whole of student traditions in universities or, more often, to the initiation rituals freshman are subjected to in some Portuguese universities.Praxe is replicated by other higher education institutions across the country. Examples include Queima das Fitas and its parade, the Cortejo da Queima, the Festa das Latas and the Latada, where the freshmen walk throughout the streets with cans on their feet, and the ripping of the traditional academic suit of the students when they finish their first cycle of studies. Its roots go as far back as the 14th century, but it became most known in the 16th, under the name of the "Investidas", in the University of Coimbra, the oldest of its kind in the country. The praxe is meant to initiate the freshmen into the University institution and to encourage the loss of social inhibitions. Tradition, ritual, humor, joy and parody are some of the main ingredients of praxe. Older students tend to produce funny situations and jokes with the freshmen; giving a warm welcome to them through initiation rituals. In most Portuguese higher education institutions, girls and boys have some gender-separated rituals to preserve dignity and respect. Most of the freshmen's rituals are performed collectively in order to avoid open ground for abusers. However, the older students sometimes take the praxe too far, when the initiation rituals, jokes and traditions are degraded into humiliation and violence, a violation of the code and values of the praxe. The president of the Associação Académica de Coimbra (ruling body of the praxe) has described such incidents as a stain in its principles, and supports legal action being taken against perpetrators. One of the mottos of praxe is Dura Praxis Sed Praxis (Latin for the praxe is harsh, but it is the praxe, like dura lex sed lex). These incidents have led to criticism against the praxe, and the creation of student organizations against it.

The Praxe is a continuation of medieval practices once common in universities throughout Europe, a ritual known as deposition. This practice was abolished in all countries in the eighteenth century, under the Age of Enlightenment, due to its brutality and disrespect of the human dignity of the freshman. Today it persists in this institutionalized form in a few countries.

An increasingly larger number of institutions organize alternative initiation events for the freshmen based on solidarity activities and community work - it is called "Solidarity Praxis" (Praxe Solidária).

History

The roots of the praxe date back to the 14th century, when practiced by the clergy, which greatly influenced the design of the academic outfit, but it did not attain recognition until the practice spread to Coimbra, first being named the Investidas, in the 16th century, upon the establishment of the university.From Coimbra, the tradition spread into Lisbon and Portomarker in the 19th century, when those cities gained access to higher education, and students from those same cities transferred closer to home and brought the praxe and its customs with them. The Praxe is known everywhere in Portugal, being replicated inside higher education institutions of any kind and origin across the entire country. The process repeated itself, as more and more cities across the country had access to higher education, and today the traditions and costumes of the praxe are replicated nation-wide, with each particular university or other higher education institution, having its own specific rituals and practices, and some praxe-related organizations have even attained international reach as well. The ritual burning of the ribbons of Queima das Fitas, the tradition of ripping and tearing of the newly graduates academic suit, the Festa das Latas with its Latada parade, the Cortejo da Queima parade of Queima das Fitas, among many other rituals, festivals and traditions, are examples of events which are associated with Praxe.

Academic outfit

The academic outfit, being composed of a cassock, black pants, a black straight tie or bowtie of the same colour, a black vest with a back buckle (If one wears the bowtie, the vest is excluded) and a simple white shirt, without motifs or cuff links, buttons of the same colour and one pocket on the left side, along with black classical shoes and a straight black cloak for men. Women's outfits are composed of white straight shirt, and like the male one, without cuff links, a black jacket with two pockets, a skirt, equally black, black tie and stockings and high heel shoes. The outfit, originally created for the students of the University of Coimbra, is a key part of the praxe symbolising equality, respect and humility. It originated from the original outfits monks wore, demonstrating the influence of the clergy on the education, which lasted up until the 18th century, having maintained a very similar appearance to the original up until the 19th, when the more significant changes occurred, such as the shortening of the cassock and, by the end of the century, the definite presence of the long pants.

The outfit's cloak is traditionally not washed, as such represents the giving up of the memories of the academic life and it can be torn whenever something exceptionally important occurs to the wearer. The cloak is also used to show respect to places one is in or a person someone is in the presence of, and the maximum demonstration of academic respect is the laying down of the cloak on the ground for someone to walk on top of.

The outfit can only be worn by those who abide to the praxe.

Some Portuguese higher education institutions have their typical academic outfit which differs greatly from that born in the ancient University of Coimbra. This is the case, for example, of those worn by the students of the University of the Algarvemarker and Minho Universitymarker.

Criticism

As an old student tradition with roots in the ancient University of Coimbra, the Praxe has suffered many changes and reforms. In its modern form, the Praxe is suited to social and cultural values of the present, where such concepts as civil rights, gender equality and citizenship, are more strictly enforced than in the past. Among some students of certain learning institutions and departments, the Praxe tends to be seen as a kind of informal certificate to promote the school to the good school status, instead of the actual quality of its curricular courses, the admission selectiveness of its programmes, and the excellence of its teaching and pedagogic standards. However, the genuine Praxe Académica has been corrupted, misused, and abused by some groups of students, regardless of whether they belong to large ancient institutions or to the smaller ones. Praxe rituals have been accused of going against the principles set in the codes of the praxe, succumbing into sadist practices meant to humiliate and demean the freshmen.

In the 2000s, the Ministry of Higher Education, Mariano Gago, was called by students who wished to see justice applied against abusers, as the institutions themselves ignored their complaints. The first case of abuse in the Praxe involving court action against 6 perpetrators, happened in 2003 at an agricultural polytechnic institution from Santarém - the Escola Agrária de Santarém of the Instituto Politécnico de Santarém. Driven by a driver of the polytechnic, a van from the school was used in the process. The trial started in February 2008. Other noted case happened in Bragança at the Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gestão of the Instituto Politécnico de Bragança. Other case involved a female student of the Instituto Piaget, a private higher education institution - in December 2008, the court required the Instituto Piaget to pay nearly 40,000 euros to the student.

Among the sadistic practices sometimes found in praxe, specific humiliations of the freshmen by older students are the most common, such as by forcing them to perform large numbers of push ups, "kiss the ground", or stand in uncomfortable positions for prolonged amounts of time.. There are also more extreme events, such as accounts of violence, for instance, when two freshmen from the University of Coimbra were assaulted by older students, which created a strong wave of criticism inside the Associação Académica de Coimbra. In another case, eight freshmen had to hide from a mob of older students to avoid being hurt (incident which later resulted in police intervention). There are also instances where sexual acts are simulated between older students and freshmen, the older students taking the form of the active participant. Not participating in the praxe also warrants consequences to the freshman in question, such as not being able to participate in praxe-related traditions and activities and being actively discriminated from academic life, as freshmen are encouraged to set aside and discriminate those who are anti-praxe.

See also



References

  1. History of the Praxe in Porto (Portuguese)
  2. News Article on the Praxe
  3. Praxe Académica - Portal regiaocentro.net
  4. Qvid Praxis page about the Praxe (Portuguese)
  5. TVI News report on the assault (Portuguese)
  6. PRAXE DE MEDICINA SOLIDÁRIA CONTRA A LEUCEMIA
  7. Praxe Solidária
  8. Praxe Académica - Portal regiaocentro.net
  9. Qvid Praxis page on the Traje
  10. Praxe Académica - Portal regiaocentro.net
  11. Ordem Praxe e Academia (Portuguese)
  12. Ordem Praxe e Academia (Portuguese)
  13. Code of the Praxe (Portuguese)
  14. Fernando Basto, Praxe de Santarém vai ser primeiro caso em tribunal, Jornal de Notícias (22nd November 2005)
  15. Piaget condenado a pagar 40 mil euros a aluna vítima de praxe, in Público
  16. News Article on Praxe (Portuguese)
  17. Another news report on the same assault (Portuguese)
  18. SIC news report on the incident (Portuguese)
  19. Antipodas Anti Praxe Movement (Portuguese)


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