Thank you for your contributions to the UiO festival 2017
Dear all, dear distinguished contributors to our UiO festival 2017. I am writing in English in appreciation of the fact that several of you travelled from afar to take part in the festival and to contribute to it in such a marvelous way. But it goes without saying that this note is meant to thank all of you, regardless of your native language.
Time and again I am asked why the University of Oslo bothers to arrange a festival like this. Is this how we should prioritize? Shouldn't we stay faithful to our primary tasks - research and higher education? Why should we make this mix of science, debates, lectures and culture, and even invite children to the campus? To me, the answer is simple. It has all to do with trust. We are facing a world where leading politicians state that "we have had enough of experts" and where academic freedom is frowned upon or even undermined.
In my mind, the most effective antidote to distrust is openness, transparency, and inclusiveness. We need to show the society at large what we are doing at a University, and we need to convey to the society at large how we can contribute to a better understanding of the changes and challenges that we are experiencing in today's turbulent world. As far as the children are concerned: We need to kindle their inquisitiveness - their eagerness for knowledge. And it would benefit us all if the children end up with an idea - however premature - of what a university is.
A university should not shy away from controversial and complex issues - we should face them head-on, as we certainly did at our festival last week. We invited to discussions on extremism, on the roles of religions in contemporary society, on the chequered history of Russia and Russia-Norway relationships, on Jihad, on globalization under pressure, on inequities, and on gender balance in academia. This list is far from exhaustive but duly shows the broad range of topics that were addressed at our festival. I thank you all for your contributions. And a special thank you to all the students and student organizations that helped make this festival a success.
Universities should be trust-building as well as truth-seeking. That is why the festival - and your contributions to it - are so important.
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