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The UAB inaugurates the "back to campus" academic year

27 Sep 2021
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The UAB inaugurated the 2021/22 academic year, which Rector Javier Lafuente qualified as the "year in which we return to campus", in an institutional event in which Elvira Dyangani Ose, director of the Museum for Modern Art of Barcelona (MACBA), gave a master lecture on "a new notion of museums" based on "experiences and affections".

Acte d'inauguració del curs 2021-2022

Dyangani Ose began her speech by recalling her years at the UAB as a student of History of Art, and the gratitude she felt for how two of her lecturers in particular had influenced her, Miquel Molins and Teresa Camps, who helped her begin to consider museum spaces as a "platform capable of generating dialogue". She evoked the origins of museums as "institutions focused on the object" and, therefore, based on the idea of possession connected to a "colonising gesture" and a certain "elitism of the upper bourgeoisie".

In this sense, the transformation of the idea of a museum according to the director of MACBA is related to a questioning on "how it narrates the experience of a post-colonial subject". According to Dyangani Ose, "the museum and the story we expect to find must blur out the binary categories we have of us and them". And she assured her audience that "they are not the stars, but rather the narrators of their history", which makes "being on a pedestal no longer an imposition, but a desire".

Dyangani Ose gave serveral examples of African artists contributing to making visible the "absent character" of museum environments and cited authors such as Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Fred Wilson, texts by Jean-François Lyotard and Langston Hughes, and contributions from areas such as the work of photojournalist Santu Mofokeng or the film Les statues meurent aussi, by Alain Resnais and Chris Marker.

Returing to on-site activities

Javier Lafuente, who for the first time presided the inauguration of an academic year as rector of the university, stated that "during the first few months as rector, I was impressed by the ability of all members of the university to adapt to difficulties posed by this uncertain situation". The "responsibility" demonstrated by students, lecturers and adminstration and services staff has been "crucial in overcoming such a highly complex situation". Now, he affirms, "the health situation allows us to begin the academic year with the much awaited and much needed return to classroom-based learning and on-site activities", and he emphasised the need to "continue maintaining all precautions" and requested that all those who have not yet received a vaccine to do so.

The rector defended the classroom-based model represented by the UAB and affirmed that "distance learning can never replace the experience of going to class" nor "replace the contact, dialogues and interactions" among fellow students of the university community. According to Rector Lafuente, "the people will continue to be the main driving force behind our governing team" and, among other objectives marked for this year, he highlighted aspects such as the comprehensive training of students, the attraction and retention of talent, and the digital transformation and transparency of university administration.

With regards to institutional policies, the rector took the moment to express his opinion on the "highly positive fact that after 16 years, we once again have a Ministry for Research and Universities", which allows us "to adequately communicate with each other". However, he also vindicated that "to move forward, it is fundamental for universities to urgently dispose of a fairer and more equitative financial model reflecting clearly the different needs and particularities of Catalonia's public universities". He specifically mentioned the need for adequate funding for research: "the driving force of a large university", and to manage to have "university fees which are not an abstacle for those wanting access to a higher education".

In his speech, Rector Lafuente also referred to the importance of interacting with the university's surroundings, and listed the "successful experiences" such as the HUB B30 and the Living Labs network, and remarked the new university model based on challenge-based learning and represented by the ECIU University. He also recalled the "serious events" caused by the drinking spree on campus on 18 September and affirmed that the UAB will strengthen "all collaboration mechanisms with the authorities in order to prevent, as far as possible, that these types of events occur ever again" because the university "is and must continue being a model of coexistence and respect".

The inauguration of the academic year took place at the Auditorium of the Rectorat building and was also streamed live on the UAB's YouTube channel, where it can still be viewed. In addition to the master lecture and institutional speeches, the UAB Secretary General Esther Zapater presented the 2020/21 annual report, a year in which the UAB strived to be a "safe space" at all moments. The ceremony also included musical performances by the group Pink Lemon Valley, formed by UAB students, and by the university's chamber choir.

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