Vulnerabilities. Crises. Opportunities. Strategies. Leadership.
“As long as political leadership is dominated by mediocrity and populism, and the economic environment focuses solely on maximizing profit, it falls to the academic environment to elaborate a strategy that can protect mankind, citizens and democracy alike”.
Following an invitation from professor Emil Constantinescu, the president of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, and professor Eden mamut, secretary-general of the Black Sea Universities Network (BSUN), a number of notable academics offered their answers to the question “What will the world look like after the pandemic?” - among them, professor Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University, United States), professor Ramu Damodaran (director of the UN Academic Impact Office), Pericles Mitkas (chairman of the Black Sea Universities Network), professor David Méndez (A.G. Méndez University, Puerto Rico), professor Karin Markides (American University in Armenia), professor Luciano Sasso (pro-rector of the Sapienza University, Rome, Italy) and László Borbély (State Advisor to the Prime Minister of Romania and coordinator of the Department for Sustainable Development of the General Secretariat of the Romanian Government).
The conference proceedings focused on identifying the vulnerabilities that led to the outbreak of the pandemic and how these might be corrected; the challenges and crises of the future; the role of managers and leaders; and an outline of the kind of leadership needed in the future.
Moderator: professor Eden Mamut, secretary-general of the Black Sea Universities Network:
“We have this amazing opportunity to come together and share our opinions. The Black Sea Universities Network began the series of debates on how universities should best react to this pandemic. […] President Emil Constantinescu proposed a partnership for anticipating the future. We shall speak of what has transpired, and what we can do for the future”.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, New York: “A deliberate lack of vision”
“We are going through a dangerous geopolitical moment, which can become even more dangerous thanks to the global economic depression which will very likely be shortly upon us. […] We are in a geopolitical crisis, but also a health and economic crisis, a crisis of leadership, and of a deliberate lack of vision”.
Professor Perikles Mitkas, Chairman of the Black Sea Universities Network, Greece: “The saving role of technology?”
“Faced with the current set of challenges, we don’t yet know whether technology will prove our salvation. We do not know how long this crisis will last. Universities face new risks and opportunities, which require the means to combine formal and online education.”
Ramu Damodaran, Director of the United Nations Academic Impact Office: “Four ways forward”
“We are now faced with the need to tackle not only existing problems, but also the solutions themselves. In the existing balance between knowledge and power, mediocrity interposes itself as yet another issue. There are four ways forward in order to define the post-pandemic world: global action, national action, challenging stereotypes (we believed that pandemics tended to spread within underdeveloped countries; on the contrary, COVID-19 has rapidly spread across the developed world), and stimulating the role of education after the pandemic”.
Professor David E. Méndez, Rector of the “Ana G. Méndez” University of Puerto Rico: “Redefining the concept of ‘collaboration’”
“This crisis must be seen as a turning point and as an opportunity to fight insular logic. Moreover, the opportunity the crisis brings lies in integrating education for the benefit of global society. In this regard, we must redefine the concept of ‘collaboration’ from a trans-, pluri- and multidisciplinary perspective”.
Professor Karin Markides, Rector of the American University in Armenia: “An opportunity to reshape a world faced with the fear of domination and isolation”
“How can education become an equal partner both for the public and the private sector? […] This crisis is the best opportunity we have of reshaping a world faced with the fear of domination and isolation. […] We must harness connectivity in order to build a new, and better, world.”
Professor Luciano Sasso, Pro-Rector of the ‘Sapienza’ University, Rome: “Introducing artificial intelligence into school curricula”
“What will become of the old universities in this new digital age? We now have an opportunity to create more virtual courses and enhance teachers’ mobility. We are now in a new learning environment, where we must stress the primacy of soft abilities over hard abilities. We must go so far as to ponder introducing artificial intelligence into school curricula.”
László Borbély, State Advisor, Government of Romania: “Capitalizing upon the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals”
“We must create real solidarity and improve connectivity between society as a whole and the decision-making bodies that govern it. While we need dreams, we also require results.”
Professor Emil Constantinescu, President of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization: “A new cultural model for the world to come”
“The 21st century requires a new cultural model, one not only able to counteract the economic and social shocks of globalization, but also capable of creating a vision of hope in a future characterized by chaotic development and uncertainty. We now have a historic opportunity to put forward just such a project. Political and economic solutions might be expedient in addressing the problem in the short term, but in the long run will not prove efficient unless paired with the use of available intellectual resources to craft a new cultural model for the world to come”.
The international conference organized by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization and the Black Sea Universities Network is part of the Institute’s project titled “What will the world look like after the pandemic?”, coordinated by dr. Oana Brânda. Following the initiative of president Emil Constantinescu, the elites of the international academic and research environment on the one hand and of the political, religious and diplomatic milieux on the other come together to outline viable perspectives for the future. Their opinions, recommendations and proposed solutions shall be collected in a forthcoming volume.