Some years ago, Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti encountered academic elitism towards her work in the Meri-Poppila district of Oulu.
Andreotti worked with the community centre in the area, which is commonly thought of as a problem suburb. A photographer took portraits of local residents, challenging their perceptions as members of the community.
“Some people at the university found it strange for an academic to be involved in such a project,” says Andreotti, a Professor of Global Education at the University of Oulu.
The experience made her more aware of the importance of academia's active social role and helped lead her to join a research project focusing on ethical issues in higher education internationalisation policies.
Andreotti and Dr. Karen Pashby, from the University of Toronto, introduced the project, Ethical Internationalism in Higher Education, EIHE, at the Reading the World Through Other Eyes workshop on Friday, 25 October at the University of Helsinki. The project stems from protecting the role of the university as the critical conscience of society.
“Internationalisation policies tend to gloss over differences and negate ethical issues,” says Pashby.
“They do not challenge the status quo and solve problems because they reduce internationalism to issues such as awareness raising and resume building.”
In Andreotti and Pashby's view, the university must guarantee independent, multi-voiced debate in today's world, where internationalism is often reduced to superficial “saris and samosas” multiculturalism.
The workshop was part of Bringing Critical Thinking Into Life In the Academia, a year-long series organised by the Rhizome of Critical Studies in Education of Adults in collaboration with the Nordic Centre of Excellence: Justice Through Education In the Nordic Countries.