|April 6, 2000
Volume 30 Number 16
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
President Esteban at the Salzburg Seminar: Globalization and Higher Education
In early February, President Manuel A. Esteban traveled to Salzburg, Austria, to participate in the Salzburg Seminars Universities Project on globalization and higher education. Esteban was the sole representative from California, and one of nine from the United States. Of the thirty-five international participants, ten were from Southeastern European countries, formerly part of Yugoslavia. The overwhelming challenges faced by these educators shaped the work and spirit of the seminar, said Esteban.
The projectıs unspoken focus was to assist educators from Serbia, Montenegro, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzogovina, and Croatia, where issues of globalization are pressing and most difficult to deal with because of economic and political instabilities, said Esteban.
The first order of business was to explore the term "globalization" and to distinguish among the various concepts attached to it: an inevitable move toward internationalization; a process threatening to the heterogeneity of cultures, language, and knowledge; the development of a world economy as a result of multinational mergers; and the creation of an information technology in which there are no national boundaries.
Difficult but necessary to look at are the consequences of globalization that are not easily accepted by smaller and especially third-world countries, even those that are enjoying improved economic health. For many such people, globalization is seen as Americanization or Westernization: a process of overrunning and erasing national and ethnic differences and a process of isolating and silencing the smallest and least powerful.
There was little disagreement that globalization -- of business, of communication, of culture -- is happening. "We agreed," said Esteban, "that it was a train that has left the station." Given globalization, the overriding questions for the seminar became "How can universities play a positive role in the process? How can they assist in both establishing peace among different peoples and preserving the integrity of various ethnic groups, languages, and religions?"
According to Esteban, one participant, Srbijanka Turajlic from the former Yugoslavia, delivered a very moving and provocative commentary on what a university can and cannot do to assist the process in Southeastern Europe of "reconciliation," and, indeed, what Yugoslavian universities actually did during the civil war.
Turajlic talked about the changes that have come about in the former Yugoslavia in the last fifteen years and how a visitor to the region might see them. "What you would see at a glance is a deeply wounded land with many scars still painfully visible. What you would not be able to see, but can almost palpably sense, is the scars that are left in each and every human soul." The region, she suggested, is in "deep need of an incubator to cultivate the notions of such things as dialogueı and reconciliation.ı"
She expressed doubts about the role the university can and should play in the process. She said, "It is my sad experience that those values cannot be taught as you might teach Newtonıs law in mechanics." She talked about the university as both a "temple of knowledge" and a "lab," and gave examples from her experience of how neither way of viewing a university was adequate for what was needed.
Turajlic said, "There seems to be only one real impact the university can have on this issue -- setting an example. This implies a view of a university as a role model for the whole society, as an institution that will take a moral and responsible stance about each vital social issue, an institution whose voice will be heard and widely respected."
President Esteban delivered one of the addresses during the seminar, "The University: Model for Multiethnic Relations and Cultural Diversity: Various Perspectives." Echoing Turajlicıs idea of the university as a model for society, he used the CSU model to discuss the ways a university can foster better relations among various ethnic groups.
California is already a very multiethnic, multiracial, and multicultural society, Esteban told the international participants, and the state university system is a reflection of that. Its mission is not only to educate and train students, but also to prepare them to be good citizens and function comfortably in an increasingly diverse country.
This means, said Esteban, that students must learn
The responsibility of universities within the CSU, said Esteban,is to be a model for society as a whole and, therefore, "We must teach tolerance, we must teach respect and civility, and we must learn to share each othersı experiences." Stating that no one program in the CSU or elsewhere has been successful to the point of having eliminated racism or discrimination, he offered some examples of practices and principles the CSU has put into place:
Recognizing that the challenges faced by universities in Southeastern Europe in dealing with human diversity are different from CSU campuses in scale, in degree, and in resources available to address them, Esteban stressed that they are the same for all of us at their core: the need to live together in a peaceful and productive manner that preserves the richness of diversity. Beyond universities, beyond institutions, there is a principle which guides Esteban to this end, and that is the French saying, être bien dans sa peau, or, literally, "to be good within your skin." That, when all is said and done, is what he would wish for each of us: to know yourself and to be comfortable with who you are, and then you can function in any social context. -- KM
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