“We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.” Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, et al. The Russell-Einstein Manifesto, 1955
The new School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS) is conceived as an open-ended enterprise with multiple stakeholders. By design an autonomous and minimalistic structure, SHSS works with all the centers, programs, and disciplines that are relevant to the development of the humanities and social sciences at Brac University (BU). The School addresses the pressing issues of the day, answers fundamental questions on knowledge and action, and collaborates with engineers and scientists to transform data into meaning that matters to society. Through our partners in the liberal arts, SHSS shapes interdisciplinary processes at our university, in Bangladesh, and across the world. “Human experience,” “social richness,” and “community knowledge” are among our keywords.
Remembering and forgetting
The School’s governance principles and practices include a learning loop that improves our collegiality and aligns our activities with the visions and missions of the University and our Departments. The School knows no exclusive ownership and is not the Dean’s property. The Dean does not interfere in the daily management of each Department, unless invited to by the Chair to solve a conflict. We avoid issues linked to micro-management by emphasizing empowerment and mutual support, and by focusing on outcomes instead of processes.
An exercise in co-design and capacity-building, the School mobilizes, allocates, and rationalizes the resources needed to fulfil eight functions at SHSS and in the School Departments:
- Engaging, alone or with other BU Schools, the local and global academic communities;
- Developing, alone or with other BU Schools, scenarios for a future desirable for all;
- Defining a long-term strategy and objectives of the School and Departments, with a focus on impact within a given timeframe;
- Defining short-term perspectives, with evaluation points that may help reconfigure our plans;
- Supervising and coordinating School and Departments’ activities in teaching, research, service, and outreach;
- Evaluating, monitoring, and reporting School and Departments’ activities;
- Labelling and promoting the School’s unique vision, principles, and values;
- Improving the historically poor public image of a group of “soft” and therefore “weak” disciplines.
Our technology-powered economy has questioned for decades the relevance of an education in the humanities and social sciences. The COVID19 pandemic has accelerated long-term trends in higher education while introducing an unprecedented degree of uncertainty. Our world has suddenly become more fragmented, hostile, and smaller. Now an online community and a new learning ecosystem, our School believes that we can innovate boldly and transform ourselves deeply only if we remain true to our humanity. SHSS’s learning experiences will therefore continue to deliver a compelling message on the beauty and fragility of the human condition.