Friday, September 15, 2017

University and matters of national significance

Imanol Ordorika of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Autonomous National University of Mexico, UNAM) delivered the opening keynote at the 2017 IARSLCE (International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement) Annual Conference in Galway, Ireland.

He asked: where were the universities when the UK debated on Brexit - the British exit from the European Union?  … when the Occupy Wall Street was going on?  … when corruption led to constitutional crisis in Brazil?  … through the Black Lives Matter campaign?  … against the “alternate facts” frenzy in the USA? 

These are matters that captured the attention of the whole nation and were enormously important for the nation.  Yet the universities in the respective nations were strangely silent.  How can universities claim to be socially responsible, engaged in society when they are silent on issues that tremendously affect their nation?  

He didn’t mention Hong Kong specifically.  But we can equally ask the same question:  Why were the universities silent on matters such as Occupy Central? Why do universities think they have no role to play in the debates in society of such enormous importance to everyone?  Is it because of a lack of expertise?  information?  … or courage?  How can we teach students to be engaged, responsible citizens when we ourselves are not willing to be the same?

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