St. Xavier’s is 140 years old, with a compact Gothic campus in the heart of South Bombay, complete with gargoyles and elegant wood paneling, but somewhat short on modern conveniences. We are received graciously by the college’s principal, Father Frazer Mascarenhas, and he and Jehuda trade stories about the challenges of deferred maintenance.
Jehuda speaks in the grand old convocation hall, a lofty room with ceiling fans between the arches. First Father Frazer and the director of the Asia Society’s India Centre, Ms. Bunty Chand, welcome the crowd. Then Zia Mody P ’10 introduces Jehuda, putting her trademark wit aside to impress the crowd with his scholarly credentials.
The speech, “Partnerships for Knowledge and Social Justice,” addresses the role of colleges and universities in tackling the major global problems of our time. Global problems – like climate change, persistent poverty, and pandemic diseases – can’t be tackled locally, he says. Jehuda outlines four ways in which higher education’s role is critical: providing widespread accessibility to education and knowledge; conducting interdisciplinary research; generating big new ideas through study of the liberal arts; and inspiring the next generation of young people to work together to address these problems.
After elaborating on these four roles, Jehuda goes on to discuss the nature of collaborative partnerships, emphasizing the importance of natural affinity, mutual respect, and the willingness to live with and even embrace disagreement. He devotes some attention to Brandeis University’s ongoing partnership with Al-Quds University, a Palestinian institution, to illustrate his point.
He concludes by painting a vision of a bright future for Brandeis engagement in India, and he invites members of the audience for their ideas for building these connections.
After the talk, Brandeis parents, alumni, and representatives of some of Mumbai’s best high schools gather for further conversation and a celebration of the University’s social justice mission.
Watch this blog for later postings of links to excerpts of the speech in text and video form.