Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg: 'We should be a counterforce to antidemocratic tendencies'
Tomorrow, 28 September, this year’s Göteborg Book Fair will open its doors. The theme is Bildung and cultivation. The University of Gothenburg will participate with its own booth and has put a lot of work into necessary preparations. Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg appreciates the vast engagement of researchers and other staff. However, she regrets that the focus has shifted away from the true content of the event.
‘As new vice-chancellor of the University of Gothenburg, I look forward to the Book Fair and all of the interesting things that will happen there. As for my own involvement, I will participate in a panel discussion on Bildung that the University will arrange. It will be very exciting to analyse the concept in detail and see if we can find some new thoughts about what Bildung really entails. And I will of course visit our booth and see what is going on there.’
What conclusions do you draw from the intense debate on the freedoms of expression and demonstration that has preceded this year’s Book Fair?
‘As a university, we obviously think it’s important to protect the freedom of expression and other fundamental rights that belong in a democracy. At the same time, however, I can see that regardless of what the law says, recent events have created situations where the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression is being challenged to its limits. This can of course be considered a problem as it by definition means that also our democracy is challenged in a rather brutal way.’
What’s the role of the University at a time when xenophobia, racism and Nazism continue to gain support in our society?
‘At a time of increasing hate speech and contempt for knowledge, our role as a University is more important than ever. It is also my firm conviction that we must actively resist and help to reverse the negative development we are seeing. We should simply be a counterforce to anti-democratic tendencies in society. We do this through our most fundamental tasks – research and education – but also by providing our students with the tools they need to become critically thinking, analytical and democratic citizens. We also do it as an independent actor with an assignment to reach out and disseminate our knowledge to the surrounding community.’
What would you like to say to those who are concerned about the fact that a right-wing extremist publication is allowed to participate as an exhibitor at the Book Fair and that a Nazi demonstration will be held near and at the same time as the Book Fair?
‘I fully understand why some people feel very uneasy about the things we have witnessed in relation to this year’s Book Fair. It is something I deeply regret. It is also very unfortunate that all the great things that will take place during the Book Fair have not received the attention they deserve.’