Por uma Universidade não aprisionável por interesses particulares - um texto do Prof. Hermínio Martins

Por cortesia do Prof. Hermínio Martins, Emeritus Fellow do St Antony´s College da Universidade de Oxford e antigo membro da Assembleia Estatutária da Universidade do Minho, divulgamos uma síntese do artigo que será publicado no próximo número da revista americana Society (publicada pela Springer-Science) sobre as relações perigosas entre a "Universidade Empresarial", algumas actividades de angariação de fundos e certos interesses nada académicos, a propósito de uma das mais prestigiadas instituições universitárias que, no entanto, parece não ter conseguido resistir aos apelos da competitividade global a todo o custo e à necessidade de obter uma maior autonomia financeira.
Como temos defendido, os padrões de governação gerencialista comprometem o futuro de uma Universidade das ideias, crítica e não aprisionável por interesses particulares, mesmo quando apresentados sob o signo do interesses geral. E é neste sentido que continuamos a pensar que, se cada vez mais funcional e meramente adaptada ao meio, a Universidade não nos servirá para nada.


The most notorious example of the public “impact” demanded of universities by the UK Government has been, perversely, the huge worldwide publicity recently received by the London School of Economics and Political Science [LSE].
For a few weeks (February-March), the LSE was a world cynosure, but not for good reasons. Rather, this was the first-ever, truly global, corporate university scandal, certainly the first to affect a university with the kind of national and especially international reputation the LSE has enjoyed for several decades.
The scandal arose initially from the donation by the Foundation run by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the favourite son of the Colonel, of 1.5 million pounds to the Centre for Global Governance at the School. Accepted by its governing body in 2009, the decision was later rescinded owing to the torrent of adverse and strident media comments the acceptance provoked in the British and foreign media.
The Director of the School, Sir Howard Davies, who had backed the decision to accept the donation, felt compelled to resign on March 3, owing to the “reputational damage” inflicted on the School by that “error of judgment”. At the same time, a comprehensive independent inquiry into the whole affair by Lord Woolf, a former Lord Chief Justice, was announced.
Ever since the Blair Government had made Libya reasonably respectable, many British universities had entered into profitable arrangements for the education and training of Libyans. But the LSE, of all British academic institutions, suffered the most revulsion against its Libyan connections. The unique intellectual dimension of its Libyan involvement and the stature of the scholars implicated in the affair, may explain why.
Most startling pehaps were the declarations of Professor Lord Giddens, the previous Director of the LSE, in 2006 and 2007. In a couple of newspaper articles arising out of two visits to the country, the word-renowned sociologist told the world that the Gaddafi rule was fairly benign as dictatorships go and expressed his belief that Libya could become the Norway of North Africa under the Colonel’s guidance. He even saw parallels between his “Third Way” and the teachings of Gaddafi’s Green Book! (the visits had been arranged by an American consultancy with Harvard connections, which also brought such American luminaries as Profs. Joseph Nye, Benjamin Barber and F. Fukuyama to Tripoli, aiming to improve the image of the Libyan dictatorship).
The famous and prolific theorist of globalization, Prof. David Held, made the preposterous claim that democratic values were at the core of Saif Gaddafi’s convictions and expressed his belief that we was going to lead Libya into democracy. He also joined the Board of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation which made the donation to his own Center of Global Governance at LSE.
Saif was admitted to the LSE as a graduate student, first for an M.Sc., and then for a PhD. Did he have the proper qualifications for admission to LSE as a graduate student? The matter remains obscure. Should he have been admitted at all, qualified or not? Admitting Saif, someone complicit with his father’s brutal regime, was giving the Gaddafi clan a foothold in prestigious Western academia. It was always a fraught decision, as shown, for example, by his need for one or more bodyguards when attending lectures in the campus. Was his PhD thesis really written by him? It is not clear whether it was, and the matter may never be fully cleared up.
Within a year of the PhD being approved, the donation was made. Naturally, there has been much suspicion arising out of the short interval of time between granting a person a PhD and then accepting a large donation from that person. Prof. Fred Halliday, a Professor of International Relations at LSE who had extensive knowledge of Libya and was fluent in Arabic, was the one academic to speak against acceptance. He warned that Libya was a corrupt kleptocracy most unlikely to be reformed by the ruling clan. His advice was overruled.
UK universities, lacking large endowments, with much reduced funding from the State, and bereft of philanthropic donations from within the country, may be forced to accept “gifts” from unsavoury regimes. But some universities, faced with dire financial straits, have refused such donations. The LSE was in good financial shape: it did not need this particular donation to keep afloat.
All in all, this is a sad case of a university’s inability to resist the temptations of big money, supposedly without strings attached, but which in fact tainted the LSE (even Professor Lord Desai, who had gone along with it all, now speaks of “blood money”). Regrettably for the good name of the social sciences, it was also a case in which world-famous social theorists succumbed to the classical illusion that they could become mentors of “enlightened despots” in countries of which they betrayed no understanding.
Universities can be undermined from within as well as from without: a single lucid and courageous person like Prof. Halliday may be unable to prevent actions which shake the world’s faith in the intellectual integrity of a university and its scholars. And when that happens, all is lost.

Hermínio Martins

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