What follows is an edited version of an address given by Professor Steven Schwartz, Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, on June 6.
What, exactly, is the university for? Universities once had clear ethical purposes but over the years we have lost our moral direction. To fulfil their true purpose, universities need to get back on course: we need to re-moralise.
To show you how much, I will take you back to when I was a five-year old living with my family in New York City. Thousand of people around the world died of polio that year; more than half were children.
This drama was repeated every summer. Everyone was relieved when autumn brought an end to the polio season, but the cycle of fear would begin again the following year.
Then something amazing happened. Jonas Salk, a young, and previously obscure, university researcher, created a vaccine. The initial results looked promising but a large-scale research project was required to be certain that the vaccine was safe and effective. A call went out for children to participate in a nationwide double-blind trial and my parents did not hesitate to enrol me. All together, two million primary school children, known as “Polio Pioneers” rolled up their sleeves for what became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.
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