Piper urges ‘citizenship’ spending
The Canadian university president most successful at boosting research funding for her school says in today’s world higher education needs to pay just as much attention to studying and teaching about social issues like peace, tolerance and global citizenship.
In Saskatoon Oct. 22 to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at U of S Fall Convocation, UBC President Martha Piper said that after years of increasing billions in federal funding for universities’ scientific research, it’s time to balance the ledger with major funding for research and teaching in the social sciences.
After her keynote speech to Convocation, Piper told On Campus News “I strongly believe we’ve needed as a nation to build our research capacity. We’re only as good as the knowledge we can generate. The country today versus 10 years ago is in a much better position [on research].”
But now, “We have to be as concerned about the knowledge that informs our civility and citizenship as about the knowledge that informs the natural sciences,” she said, adding that the federal government seems aware of the need to hike funding in this area.
“9/11 made us step back and say, ‘What’s wrong here?’” Universities have a role to play in developing an understanding of cultures “and building a tolerant civil society”.
“We have to invest in the scholarship of that. No one questions that we conduct research to cure cancer. Why not the same [investment in research] for peace?” Piper asked.
She says Canada, with its multicultural society, is well-placed to lead in studying and teaching tolerance and civility. She has taken steps to do this at UBC, putting those goals in its mission statement and starting to include those values in its curricula.
“Have [universities] educated every student to be a global citizen? I think we’re poised [to do that]. Universities have never been more important to society.”
Piper told students at Convocation they should go into the world to help the less fortunate, build communities, and fight illiteracy, crime and other social problems.
The UBC president has announced she will leave her position next June after a nine-year stint. She doesn’t know yet what she’ll go to, but has said it won’t be political office or presidency of another Canadian university.