Dear Dean, how are you?
Laurent Moreillon: I am well, as are my family and friends, considering what we have been going through for almost eight weeks now.
My life and our lives have changed a lot with the lockdown. We all perceive how small we really are and that a mini virus can confuse a whole society as well as the entire planet.
These are difficult times, in terms of human lives and the economy, but also in terms of the climate emergency. But confinement does not only have disadvantages. It has enabled us to realise that we can also, under certain conditions, work at a distance and thus save kilometres of transport and hours of travel time, for the sake of a better society.
I am still concerned about the disconcerting behaviour of some people, in public, as if the problem were behind us. What I fear is a second wave, much more serious than the first, the first having perhaps only been a warning?
What have been and are the emergencies for your faculty?
As early as Friday afternoon, March 13, 2020, we understood, at the Dean’s office, that nothing would ever be the same again. First of all, we had to organize, as a matter of urgency, the pursuit of « decent » teaching for our Bachelor and Master students. We had to set up some 200 courses for the whole Faculty, even though most of the teachers were not used to this kind of knowledge sharing with their students. We were able to rely on a brilliant task force within the FDCA, which was able to set up the procedures and support professors who were sometimes in disarray.
The FDCA community really played the game, whether it was the students, the assistants, the staff (PAT), or the teachers. I am very grateful to them.
With the distance learning courses barely up and running, we had to urgently set up the arrangements for the June 2020 exam session. We had to make strategic decisions concerning the years of Bachelor I and II (Law) and Bachelor I (ESC) and organize, for the rest, the modalities of distance examinations. We believe we have done our utmost, but no one is safe from technical risks during this session.
In addition, we are organising the preparation of the August session as well as the start of the academic year next September. Each time, we have to define several scenarios according to different circumstances and adapt them as we receive information from the Rectorate and the health and political authorities. This requires a total and, it must be said, exhausting investment on the part of the Dean’s office and the implementation team of our three schools.
Under what conditions, or at least what state of mind would you like us to approach deconfinement?
Once again, things will not be the same from now on and certainly never will be the same again. What we absolutely must avoid is falling back into the same traps: traps for quickly and hastily restarting the economy, traps for recklessly rebuilding social and friendly relations, and traps in terms of exaggerated optimism. At the same time, we must learn from what we are experiencing: even if it is still a question of improving the technique, distance learning courses have partly proved their worth and, to overcome the very high numbers of university students, perhaps this is something that should be developed? In a completely different field, the development and use of digital technology show to what extent society is now concerned: data protection, control of each other’s movements, drawing up lists of people who are immune to COVID-19… What kind of society will we live in tomorrow, in the light of laws proclaiming a state of health emergency? We need to completely rethink our economic, social, legal and political relations in an increasingly disoriented world. I believe that the University must and will contribute to these reflections.