The confinement as seen by the Dean of the Faculty of Geosciences and Environment (GSE)

Frédéric Herman, doyen de la Faculté des géosciences et de l’environnement. (Félix Imhof © UNIL)

Dear Professor, dear Dean, how are you?

I’m fine under the circumstances. However, we are still faced with uncertainty. The economy is collapsing, many people are at risk of losing their jobs, and people are still dying, but the University has been able to put all possible means at our disposal so that we can continue our primary missions, which are teaching and, for those who can, research. We must now make sure that we keep up the pace. I am confident that we will do so.

What have been and are the emergencies for your faculty?

We have had to face the unknown and make a series of quick decisions while avoiding being driven by anxiety and fear. Being proactive rather than reactive. As for the University as a whole, the priority was initially to ensure the transition to online teaching, to ensure that everyone stayed at home, to maintain administrative operations, and above all to remain united. The other task was to close our laboratories and suspend much of the field research we do. The situation is now moving in the right direction. An enormous amount of work is being done, on the one hand for the organisation and modalities of the examinations, and on the other hand for the gradual reopening of our laboratories. From the outset, I have been extremely impressed by a collective effort in the face of an unprecedented event. Thanks to the skills of the people essential to the faculty, things can be set up with a certain serenity.

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

The epidemic and the confinement it has imposed on us came suddenly. We have to admit that this brutality is the result of collective denial, of our vulnerability, and of the fragility of our societies. This epidemic reminds us once again of our duty of humility towards nature, and this confinement allows us to reflect on it. Our teachings and research will probably never be the same again. Are we at a « tipping point » where the relationship between man, his environment, health and our economic models need to be rethought? I like to think so, and I think the University is playing its part in thinking about it.