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The university should not engage in the process of identity politics

The university should not engage in the process of identity politics

Sarah Kristofferson’s book “Full Sea Storms” has been extensively discussed by Swedish cultural sites since its publication in May. The origin of the conflict dealt with in the book is that a separatist student union of Kunstfahrt proposed to change the name of the hall “Vita Havet” so that it could be perceived as racist. Design professor Sarah Christopherson disagrees. Racism in the name has no historical connection, and he takes the discussion to the TN cultural side. 44 co-workers make a name-call against her – 44 vs. 1. The book then describes how management handles the unstable work environment situation that arises.

From representatives of the university world, there has been silence since the book came out. It is worth recalling that the drama at the Kunstfare took place in a state power. It is time for the higher education sector – and particularly the administrations of the sector’s 47 universities and colleges – to look at what happened at Konstfack.

Mark won

In recent years, a number of academics have highlighted how radical humanist theories have become entrenched in university world bureaucracy. Sten Wittholm (Access, 3/2022). In February, Sakeen Madden (UNT, 27/2-22) highlighted the danger of identity politics ideas at KTH. Based on Robin DeAngelo’s critical whiteness studies, KTH presented an “Inspirational Lecture” on “White Fragility.” Alternative explanations for the concept of heterogeneity are not offered. In this context, it is worth noting that Maria Lands, principal of the Kunstfahrt, also wanted to further train the staff in DeAngelo’s theses.

It may be pertinent to state here that, regardless of profession, the exercise of power within the Swedish state should lean towards six principles: democracy, law, objectivity, free expression, respect and efficiency and service. What happens when our universities, the powers that be, allow ourselves to be influenced by intersectionality?

It is obvious that government colleagues, who support theses from critical theory, completely reject such a concept as objectivity.

Let’s consider the Swedish state’s values ​​as “objective”. How well can Konstfack’s management perform according to objective criteria? It is obvious that government colleagues who support theses from critical Rasti theory completely reject such a concept as objectivity. There is no such thing as an objective fact that the name White Sea does not have a racial origin. However, there are “feelings” that the name may be racist. This is a position in theoretical debates in the humanities – and there is still no consensus. But empirical arguments are already beginning to have an impact on the exercise of power. So it’s no surprise that Chancellor Lands refers to “experiences” even when dealing with things like firing a colleague.

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Legally secure government administration

The higher education sector now has strong reasons to examine whether principles of legally secure public administration are compatible with other types of values. Is it even fair for a university to base further education on values ​​or radical principles? Shouldn’t the governance within a university be the framework that ensures that education and research are managed efficiently? To ensure that recruitment and handling of other personnel matters is done according to merit principles?

We believe there is still time for the higher education sector to demonstrate some form of self-regulation. Values ​​derived from a personal tradition of ideas usually lead to stupidity here. Therefore, research and education should be developed in various directions. But the administration must be driven by the values ​​of the Swedish state and nothing else.

Presence of activity

For those who believe there is nothing to do in Sweden, we urge you to look at the rest of Europe. In Denmark, Great Britain and France, for example, politicians have marked themselves more or less strongly against activism in the humanities. The Danish Parliament has so far been satisfied with the mandate. On the other hand, in France, the Minister of Research, Frédérique Vidal, has requested a detailed investigation into the presence of activity in French universities. In the UK, the Tory government has introduced bills to uphold (you read that right, uphold) academic freedom.

Academics are the only credible alternative to politicians trying to steer the academy. Academics – not politicians – are responsible for ensuring the possibility of fundamental argument and debate without researchers and teachers being silenced and bullied by colleagues, as happened at Kunstfag. Short-term care for the university brand risks eroding the fundamental mission of our universities. It is a resource for Sweden’s education leaders. If you can’t take responsibility yourself, expect an outside investigation to do the work for you.

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Fanny Forsberg LundelProfessor of French at Stockholm University

Johann CordeboHistorian of Uppsala University and University of Cambridge