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Social Responsibility Reflected in a Wide Pool

“Not to harm is not enough, there is a need also to help. These are complementary requirements.”
The speaker was Prof. Gesine Schwan, president of the European University of Viadrina, Frankfurt a. Oder. Her opening talk—and questions—on the role of a society and the role of a university set the tone for the seminar, “Multiple Reflections of Social Responsibility.” This particular morning session of the 33rd Board of Governors Meeting gave the governors serious food for contemplation as they sought the role of the University of Haifa in the myriad reflections generated by the array of seminar speakers.
Criticizing the market orientation of public discourse about universities, which she says causes scholars to be afraid to speak out in public, she urged them to contribute to truth. Even while they are trying to be competent, she said, “Universities should be an institutional authority in society, in the sense that they are trusted.” She is fearful that problems that are “out of the purview of social responsibility” today will not be able to be faced twenty years from now.
In her opinion, the sign of a free society is to allow people to have alternatives. “The first step of a university is to battle against not having them.”
Touching on a theme that she later expanded after the Board of Governors Meeting, Schwan pointed to the importance of a university’s location. The institution she heads is located in Germany, but close to Poland. “It services the two borders,” she would elaborate to those who came to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the University’s Bucerius Institute for Research of Contemporary German History and Society.
Ilan Tirosh heads a capital fund, Yuvalim, whose objective is to reduce gaps in Israeli society and to advance equality of opportunity, alongside excellence. He sees the community, the university, and business as a triangle and “a kind of eco system.”
How involved should a company become? he asked. “A symbiotic relationship can be created between business and the community,” he answered, adding that “social responsibility was not a privilege, but an obligation.”
He described his three-track program, which focuses on junior high school-age children. One part was to boost academic achievement, another to make these pupils aware of their commitment to society. The third track was to create a caring family, but one that demanded a lot, as well.
Tirosh said he wanted to be able to “leverage business leadership and inspire students.” The ultimate intention was to instill a “life-cycle reaction, not a one-time act” of social responsibility.
Viewing society from another part of the fence, if not the other side, from Schwan, Ahuva Yanai asked how an organization could be socially responsible and answered it differently: “Do good, but also no harm.” She is managing director of Matan, a non-profit organization set up by billionaire Sheri Arison that, she said, follows the value of the United Way. “There is no one agenda, no one thing is most important or needs improving the most.”
She complained, “Even in the high-tech world [known for its supposed liberalism], everyone asks why we should do it. It’s a government’s job” to be socially responsible. Her response: “People can not only talk about but actually make a difference.” Involvement is the key word for a civil society, she stressed.
Social responsibility can be used a tool by managers, Yanai said, pointing to the Harvard Business School, which offers a course in the subject.
Dr. Danny Statman of the Dept. of Philosophy asked whether universities have a commitment to act on behalf of society. In his view, they “need to pay back the society, which allows the institution to exist.”
Paying back, for this philosopher, means taking the lead in doing the right thing, even if other universities do not follow and even if it doesn’t bring in more friends and more students. “Moral action,” he advised, “needs a lot of patience. It may pay back or it may not. But [this University] should do it for the sake of society.”
Statman warns that “there is no guaranteed harmony between doing good and doing well. It involves a leap of faith to take the moral path.”
The University of Haifa’s commitment to social responsibility is manifested, among others, in the appointment of a special adviser to the president on this subject. The adviser, Dr. Iris Kenan, believes that excellence, toward which the University strives, is the “leverage making it possible to experience social responsibility.” The university, she remarked, is the last chance to influence youth, so the goal is to further develop student support for socially responsible activities.
The very fact that this institution is a pluralistic university, she continued, “commits us and presents challenges” in the realms of multiculturalism and equality.
She revealed that the Dept. of Multi-disciplinary Studies is developing a “social responsibility cluster” of courses so that students “will understand what we are talking about.” To create further awareness, she is planning an annual conference on the theme. Still another project under development is one to identify underachievers in both the Hebrew and the Arabic-speaking communities. The latter target, she noted, is entirely new.
The commitment to society, she stressed, was a policy of this University, internally and externally. It was to be reflected in teaching and research, as well as community service. As Kenan sees it, “there is no tension between critical and being socially responsible.”

In This Issue:

The University Becomes a Little Like Annapolis (and West Point)

Supported Academic Learning Aids Students with Problems

Synagogue/Church Controversy and a Digestive Amulet
Mark University’s Dig at Hippos-Sussita

Golumbic Elected Israel’s 1st European Fellow

Prof. Asher Koriat Is 1st Recipient of Prestigious German Award

Intelligence Corps Wisely Chooses the University

Sweating Before an Audience—Working to Control a Phobia

Michael Wainer—University’s First Vice President for Finance
and Business Development

Prof. Eli Salzberger Elected Next Dean of Law Faculty

University Responds to Tulane Students' Needs

A Look Back at Graduation 2005

33rd Board of Governors Opens with Song and Story

University Honors Five with Honorary Doctorate
First Egyptian to Conduct in Israel Adds Highlight to Ceremony

Social Responsibility Reflected in a Wide Pool

New Recanati Lab Dedicated



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