Today, I listened to President Obama’s commencement speech at Rutgers University. It is a speech about virtue and vices, about knowledge and ignorance, about honor and its absence in political world, about decisions. It is so inspirational that only narrow-minded people would say it is about politics. No, it is about inspiring, strengthening the spirit of the American youth, at least, some of them, those that are privileged to study there.
I choose to make this video recommendation about the university and its community, not about Obama and his rhetorical abilities. And I did that because the reality is that no European continental university will ever find the proud of its members and its alumni like the American universities. I don’t have an answer for this: why most students fail to feel they are part of an academic community, with certain values and ideas. What I do know is why Romanian universities are unable to reach a higher level of quality in teaching, research and management. I know how to change this, but I also know there is no university in this country I am temporarily in that has the courage to do what it is necessary. Too often, if not all the time, they are trapped among over-sized egos and opposing private interests, biases, inertia, and lack of leadership, as well as pseudo-values.
It is not a problem of money, of financial power or support from the state, as some still claim. We have the example of Spiru Haret University who had the financial resources, but it lacked vision and competent management and ended up by being an example of pseudo-education and pseudo-research. We have many other examples like that. And some concern state universities as well. But it is about competency and hard work, about commitment and effort, about courageous decisions to eliminate all political ties, all incompetent individuals, all resource-depleting activities.
Of course, I am arrogant in claiming this. Why others missed these things and I didn’t?! It is simple: they failed to see what it takes because they thought they have what it takes. On the contrary, I claim that I know that it takes because I can put together nodes and networks that are separate for them, and these nodes and networks represent people and structures that have the competence in making a real change in any Romanian university. Only that, in most cases, it would come with a almost complete change of personnel and administrative systems, something that makes people very uncomfortable.
Imagine a Romanian president, former or current, giving a speech about empowering people. Laughable, right?!
Now, turn your attention to a political character parasitizing the management of Romanian universities and Ministry of Education. Plenty of names to make your mental image real, right?! From former president Constantinescu and philosophers Andrei Marga to ‘Abramburica’ or Costoiu, from the cartoon character Daniel F. Funeriu to Sorin Cimpeanu. All spoke about reforming the Romanian higher-education, but failed miserably in helping it to improve even slightly. Only the current Ministry of Education, Mr. Mircea Dumitru, my former professor and colleague, had the gut to say the truth about Romanian educational system. And I don’t believe he is capable of going too far with this change of perspective.