What is the responsibility of universities?
If you had been there, you would have realized that the only ones who did not enjoy seeing people flying through the air were the few students of Arab origin. I’m talking about the film “Four Lions” (2010) directed and written by Christopher Morris. It is a dramatic comedy in which satire is always present, but the most surprising thing was being in an audience in DCU (Dublin City University) with many university students who laughed every time people died or were exploited in the film. It is true that the film invites black humor, but the reaction of the students encourages us to reflect on what is happening in our universities, wherever they are.
This situation leads to several questions, one of which being to what extent is DCU responsible for the behavior of its students in front of the film “Four Lions”? It seems to be a question out of context and of no importance because in a democracy each student is free to react as he wants in front of a movie, but if we think carefully, we find that universities (regardless of where that is, such as yours) have a great responsibility to students in terms of civic education and knowledge of reality.
What is the capacity of universities to form citizens willing to work for peace and social progress? Why must higher education serve society?
We all know that university is the best place to exchange ideas and experiences, for critical debate and the stimulation of knowledge. However, very few of us are interested in how far our universities are working for peace education, conflict reduction, sustainable development and the progress of society.
What is the responsibility of the university to society and to students? On the one hand it is responsible for vocational education and citizenship. Here there are a couple of difficulties, first because not everyone has access to college and therefore not everyone can be trained. But perhaps the most worrying aspect has to do with the “efficiency-effectiveness” model with which many universities work today.
We also find that universities are responsible for transmitting knowledge. But responding to the question of how knowledge is transmitted is not the problem, the issue is what outside interests are behind some research projects and which domain, economic or public, tips the scales with programs of Research – Development & Innovation.
The responsibility of universities is not only to transmit knowledge and to respond to the demands of the labor market; not only to form responsible citizens who wish to contribute to development in their professions, or make a clear difference between paying taxes or avoiding them. The responsibility of universities, apart from the above, is also to influence and change reality. It’s about universities (which have power, resources and legitimacy) having the ability to change the phenomena that are most vulnerable in our society, phenomena such as war, conflict, poverty, unemployment, injustice, corruption and intolerance to name a few.
If you are near professors, deans and lecturers ask how your university can be a useful tool to combat exclusion, inequality in the market, war and conflict resolution.
Thinking about how our universities should be in the long term, becomes difficult when you consider that we are in a world of dynamic change and the unimaginable. However, in the short term, we should insist that the way forward is driven by social responsibility and ethics in a world increasingly concerned with efficiency and market interests.
Something is failing. The students are not entirely to blame for bowing to sensationalism and becoming anesthetized to the violence generated by conflict. Part of the blame is that we are all more or less responsible for the process of commercialization of universities, and that we all more or less condescend to compromise on our demands.
By Javier Urrea Cuéllar. Political Scientist. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
Publicado el 6 abril 2012 en Conflicto armado, Derechos, Opinión, Violencia y etiquetado en Civic education, DCU, Dublin City University, Education, Four Lions, Javier Urrea Cuéllar, Responsability. Guarda el enlace permanente. 2 comentarios.