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Confinement as seen by the Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences (SSP)

Marie Santiago Delefosse, Dean of the Faculty of SSP. Félix Imhof © UNIL

Dear Professor, dear Dean, how are you?

Marie Santiago Delefosse: I’m doing pretty well under these circumstances. Thanks to the teachers, the administrators, the students, the faculty is functioning, the teaching is taking place, and everyone is doing their best to ensure that the impact of the crisis is mitigated. However, I am aware of the mental burden that these changes entail, and I do not underestimate the burden they place on all of us. So, I feel pretty good, but I’m paying close attention to the well-being of those who are working on a just-in-time basis to make it all work.

What have been and are the emergencies for your faculty?

The first emergency was to get the courses online. It was necessary to inform and support the teachers in their adaptation to new teaching methods. Everybody got involved and our reactivity, as well as the creativity of everyone surprised me in a good way. Our next challenge, for several weeks now, has been to ensure that the exams are properly held so that this year is not considered lost, but really a year of theoretical as well as practical learning. Teaching therefore remains the primary mission of our Faculty, and the time required by these adjustments has led to a reduction in certain research activities. However, this parenthesis, although necessary, remains temporary. Necessary, because with such adaptations in such a short time, one cannot do everything and one must know how to preserve one’s physical and mental health. Temporary, because the whole Faculty is concerned by the social, political and psychological stakes of the pandemic and the upheavals it implies, at the scale of UNIL, of course, but also in Switzerland and throughout the world. Indeed, in order to face and learn from such crises, there will be a need for analytical skills in social and political sciences and this will have consequences on the future research and interventions of all the Faculty’s researchers.

Do you already sense the end of containment, under what conditions or at least what state of mind would you like us to address it?

From experience, I know the errors of « forecasters » of all kinds, so I refrain from any exercise in « futurology ». As a health psychologist, it would seem difficult and potentially dangerous to ignore what has just happened. Rejecting reality is a psychological mechanism that never allows us to move forward and overcome the difficulties we have experienced. We should not underestimate the side-effects and trauma caused by the confinement, anxiety and uncertainty of the next day. We should think about those who have suffered the most and analyse the social and political mechanisms that have led to this crisis and its public and individual management. This is also the work of researchers in our disciplines. If there is a general state of mind for the post-crisis period that I would like to promote, it would be to remember the importance of solidarity, the fundamental good of caring for others and the commitment to maintain social ties.