A year ago, I had just arrived at the University of Ottawa. Since then, I’ve had the great privilege of spending part of the year listening to what different people have to say. This has been a rich experience for me in many ways. So why a blog — another — you ask? My listening didn’t end with the 2016–17 school year, I can assure you! This blog will be an additional means to listen and converse. Because beyond letters and formal communication, I sometimes want to share my thoughts on certain topics — thus, a blog. Please forgive me!
The start of the school year is finally here! Everyone who works on campus always feels joy at the sight of thousands of students arriving in early September. As for me, I never cease to be amazed at how the campus sheds its summer torpor and, in a matter of days, swings into full throttle. I am always impressed by the sudden appearance of tens of thousands of students, by the regular or part-time professors in their classrooms, by the students finding their way on campus even if it’s their first time here, and by all the staff members who do their utmost to make sure everything runs properly. It’s a bit like if a city came to life almost instantly, a complex city with equally complex workings.
One of the charms of university life is those very changes of rhythm over the months and seasons. For my colleagues, these changes in rhythm mean being able to devote more time to teaching or research, and sometimes, ridding ourselves of all the tasks we’ve put off until tomorrow for lack of time. For students, these changes in rhythm mean summer jobs, internships or — who knows — travel for some lucky ones. We can all agree on one thing, though — September is a special month for everyone, one that marks the rest of the academic year.
The year that is starting looks to be a full one. It is taking place against a social backdrop that is worrisome in many regards. We will no doubt have the opportunity during the year to come back to this issue in the blog. Universities — including, of course, uOttawa — can’t avoid the tensions around us. For this, we should be glad, as it means we are an integral part of our society. However, I strongly believe that we must hold ourselves to higher standards of behaviour than the rest of society concerning, for example, the place of Indigenous peoples and their cultures, accessibility for persons living with disabilities, our impact on the environment or the place of rights and freedoms on an open and inclusive campus. In any case, our university must continue to be a place of tolerance and inclusion, of diversity and intellectual richness. That’s a lot for this year, but it’s where our duty lies!
All the best for the start of the school year. I hope to run into you one of these days!