Of Networked Universities Supporting Structural Reform in Local and Global Society

Many of the ideas that were expressed by Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, in his address to Jesuit Universities and Colleges worldwide, “Depth, Universality and Learned Ministry: Challenges to Jesuit Education Today,” are of relevance not only to Jesuit higher institutes of learning but to all who are engaged in education today. Friends may wish to read this at:

http://www.ajcunet.edu/ajcunet/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000000595/NicolasSJ.pdf

There is a treasure trove of ideas here to stimulate the contemporary educator’s mind, food for thought for many blogs! But for now, confronted by the challenges posed by Jesse Robredo’s DILG supporting open pit mining based on an existing law shot through with moral infirmities (PDI, Dec 10, p.B1), some reflection’s on Fr. Nicolas’ suggestion that Jesuit universities become a globally networked “proyecto social”.

He expressed satisfaction that each university has already become a “proyecto social”: “Each institution … with its rich resources of intelligence, knowledge talent, vision and energy, moved by its commitment to the service of faith and promotion of justice, seeks to insert itself into a society, not just to train professionals, but in order to become a cultural force advocating and promoting truth, virtue, development, and peace in that society. We could say every university is committed to caritas in veritate – to promote love and truth – truth that comes out in justice, in new relationships, and so forth.”

Already food for thought: the university is not just about professional training, but a cultural force for social upliftment through social justice.

For Fr. Nicolas, however, it is not enough that each Jesuit university is a proyekto social in its own right, involved in the social transformation its particular circumstances occasion or impel, but in a global world imperative that universities, reaching out in service to the community network, collaborate, work together, so that the impact of their outreach not just be local but global. Working just regionally or even nationally “does not take sufficient advantage of what our new globalized world offers us in possibilities for greater service,” Fr. Nicolas insists. Looking at the international and multi-cultural reality of the group of Jesuit universities in the world, he opines that “…until now we have not fully made use of this ‘extraordinary potential’ for ‘universal’ service as institutions of higher education.” In this context, he poses the challenging question:

“Can we not go beyond the loose family relationships we now have as institutions, and re-imagine and re-organize ourselves so that in this globalized world, we can more effectively realize the universality which has always been part of Ignatius’ vision of the Society [of Jesus]? Isn’t this the moment to move like this?”

In a world of deep inner loss of human meaning, confusion, superficiality, grinding poverty, weapons of mass destruction, war, human trafficking, child abuse and shameless environmental degradation, this is a challenge not only for Jesuit institutions of learning, but for universal academic community. We have all to learn to better work together in obeying the moral imperative to better human society and to preserve our environment for future generations.

This means working together even to overcome unenlightened laws which lock our society in structures of human or environmental degradation.

Consider, for instance, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which Dr. Lina Regis of the Institute of Environmental Conservation and Research has characterized as “an Act of treason.” This law practically invites foreign miners to pillage the Philippine environment at the cost of the Filipino people, especially its poor.

It is a law that needs to be replaced with such as the Alternative Mining Bill proposed in Congress today by Congressman Erin Tañada. It is supported by such as the Bikol Foundation for Higher Education and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines.

Two days ago, the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Jesse Robredo, lent formal support to environmentally disastrous open pit mining in the Philippines by denying his support to the courageous stance of the local government of Cotabato, which had resolved not to allow open pit mining in its territory. Citing existing law, Robredo, who had earlier been a staunch advocate of environmental conservation, supported the foreign miners against the local government of Cotabato. Unfortunately, instead of supporting enlightened change for a healthier environmental future, Robredo supported the benighted law environmentalist are trying to overcome.

It is unfortunate that he did not support the efforts in civil society and in Congress to enact mining legislation that respects the Filipino people and the Philippine environment – even by just tempering his enthusiasm to promote this law, no matter how morally infirm.

In such a situation, does academe have any role? If one thinks of the university only as a dispensary of instruction, that role would not be apparent. But universities today are clearly understood not only as institutions for instruction, but also for research and social involvement. In this context, not only individual universities, but universities networked for optimum moral impact for social and cultural change, have a huge role to play. This would be Fr. Nicolas’ idea of universities as networked “proyectos social” exerting global influence in response to global challenges.

A fruit of educational reform has to be citizens who can think “out of the box” in order to serve and promote the common good – even when that “box” is a bad law and is filled with goodies distributed in support of a bad deal.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
This entry was posted in Philippine Educational Reform, Philippine Mining Reform and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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