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Challenge expected: creating a critical and open academic community

This spring BA International Studies will be a focus of investigation! An investigation we invite you to become an active participant in, by joining in and discussing some profound questions in order to build a strong(er) community in the uncertainty of the world around us.

This may sound pretentious, but it is not – in fact, quite the opposite: it is an attempt to uncover shared goals, aims, dreams, and expectations, to ask how we give meaning to our time in academia and how the outcome can affect (future) decisions.To that end, we invite you, our students, to consider the following questions:

  • what are you (as an individual) here for – what are you seeking from your time at university?
  • what are we (as an institution) here for – what is the role and responsibility of the university towards you, towards all of us, towards society?

Leiden University applies the motto Praesidium Libertatis: Bastion of Freedom, expressing the central position of freedom in the functioning of our university. The new University Strategic Plan 2022-2027 says this: “We see ourselves as a guardian of academic freedom, and guarantee an open and inclusive community that promotes, nurtures and values this motto within and outside the University. Leiden University’s scholars are our antennae in society and are prominently represented in societal debates. They feel called to ask the questions they believe should be asked, and want to help to answer these – even when this is challenging.” (Strategic Plan 2022-2027, p.14)

These ambitions raise important questions about our everyday university activities:

  • How do we guard academic freedom – are there boundaries? Who decides and on what grounds?
  • How do we guarantee an open and inclusive community – What does that look like? Who decides? Who is (held) accountable? How does this relate to academic freedom?
  • How do we serve as an antenna – What are we listening to? Who do we listen to? What do we do with the questions and answers we identify?

University is a place to challenge and be challenged

This investigation also touches on the boundaries of the university: its core activities focus on research and education, but how could (or should) the connection to society be made stronger, and what is the university’s social responsibility towards current and future generations?

Universities occupy a unique space in society, a place for learning how to learn. They offer a place where a broad variety of ideas, ideologies, interests, personalities and identities come together. A place where you are challenged to step out of your comfort zones, encouraged to question your own and each other’s beliefs, and reflect on the outcome of discussions, on an academic as well as a personal level.

This is where you come in!

Finding answers to these questions reflects and expresses what it means to be part of a university, and to be part of an academic community. What it means to the people within, but also what it means to everyone outside of the university. It aims to seek out the scope of a university’s social responsibility in addressing, interpreting, and explaining events in the outside world. What benefits and risks are involved in sharing academic knowledge; how to deal with ambiguity, contradiction, uncertainty, with not-knowing? Join us in the events below to share your thoughts!

Save the date

Challenge expected lecture
Jill Jeffery, PhD,
When Critical Thinking Goes Wrong: Civic Reasoning in a Polarised World.

Date: Friday April 8
Time: 15:30-16:30
Location: Schouwburgstraat, Living Lab

Dr. Jill Jeffery is associate professor of English at Leiden University and involved in the new minor program Disinformation and Strategic Communication.

Challenge expected student conference

Exchange thoughts at a student-only conference hosted by Ebrar Kaya, assessor to the Faculty of Humanities, addressing two main themes:

  1. Academic community and academic freedom
  2. University Social Responsibility in practice

Date: Friday April 22
Time: 15:00-18:00
Location: Schouwburgstraat, Living Lab

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