A President and a Scholar

UBC President, Stephen Toope

I have always been puzzled by my own self:

  • Principled, yet pragmatic;
  • Old-fashioned liberal (or is it lefty?), yet at ease with the corporate types;
  • Intellectual provocateur, yet deliberately respectful;
  • Competitive, yet a consummate team player;
  • Decisive, yet not a high risk taker;
  • Believer in human rights, yet relatively timid in facing up;
  • Free speech advocate, yet only through respectful dialogue;
  • Believer in scholarly Puritanism, yet aware of its limitations;
  • Internationalist, yet not immune from western intellectual colonialism.

Then came Stephen Toope. A President and a Scholar.

I will not attempt to summarize and butcher his response to the question of Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift of Warwick University, on whether universities are appropriately organized to fulfill their contemporary mission. But I strongly recommend it.

Here is, however, how it ends:

“Universities must learn to be more Janus-faced. By that, I mean the opposite of hypocritical. If we are really going to address the fundamental problems of global society, we can’t just research solutions and preach. We need to act on our own campuses, and in our local communities, as well. Are we leaders in economic, environmental and social sustainability? How aggressive are our own greenhouse gas reduction targets? Are we modeling best practices in intercultural dialogue? Do our own workforce practices address issues of income inequality?”

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