Providence

Paulo Coutinho

Paulo Coutinho

“Our privilege and mission is to introduce [the students] to a university environment where they learn to analyze, question, evaluate and decide in the context of consciously assimilated values and culture.”
Fr Peter Stilwell,

“Rector’s Welcome Message,” USJ website

Popular and outspoken scholar Éric Sautedé was sacked from the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) on political grounds by the rector.
Father Peter Stilwell’s comments to Ponto Final yesterday were something close to disastrous for an academic and for the university:
“It’s [a decision] made for the sake of clarification. There is a primary principle in the Church [doctrine], which is of non-intervention in local political debate.”
Come again? Who’s talking about the Church? Clarification? Let’s clarify, then.
As a leader of a university, Professor Stilwell should not wear the priest’s vestments he usually wears at Sunday mass.
The Reverend Father Peter Stilwell is the rector of the USJ and in that capacity –   and in that capacity only – can he make a decision to fire one of his staff. And Stilwell himself made it very clear that it was (a politically biased) decision of the university.
Apparently, Stilwell is the one in need of clarification of his role(s), not Sautedé, not us lay people.
Stilwell is actually confessing failure to perform his role adequately. How can one trust in a university that is lead by a rector that abides by non-academic standards and blocks its faculty from participating in social debate?
As a member of the academy, he should be promoting debate – political, philosophical, theological even, in any science. He should protect and encourage his faculty to ‘shake’ their students’ minds for them to participate, to engage in public life, to be critical, to have a voice. More so in a place where political apathy and conformism have habitually reigned amongst our youth.
Éric Sautedé – like few others in the (fragile) local academic circle – is doing what he’s supposed to do: lecturing, researching, writing, commenting on his field of expertise about current affairs, thus contributing to society at large with his public intervention, namely with his column in MDT.
Mark, for instance, Dr Chui Sai On’s words this very week: “Young people’s expression of opinions and critical thinking is part of their education.”
Fr Stilwell made his decision in the aftermath of the huge “May Spring” demonstrations in Macau joined by thousands of people voicing their discontent with public policies and the deteriorating quality of life.
To say the least, the political sacking of a scholar by the USJ’s rector was really bad timing.
Providence, for those who believe in it, and Fr Peter is surely one of them, was not with him. And will not grant him what he seems to be after at all costs: the building of the Ilha Verde campus for the Catholic university, which has been lagging for years and years.
If the University of Saint Joseph had some modicum of comparative advantage over the more bureaucratic government-sponsored institutions, it was precisely that of openness, where debate was possible. That reputation is now in tatters.


Categories Editorial