Supreme Leader's Address to Academics and Vice-Chancellors
Ayatullah Khamenei

01/10/2007

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

First of all, I would like to welcome all the dear brothers and sisters. I express my appreciation to the friends who expressed their views of different matters. I am also grateful to Dr. Larijani who competently presided over the meeting.

As I have constantly repeated before in similar meetings, our annual meetings have a symbolic aspect to them. I mean I want these meetings to be the manifestation of the government's reverence for the academics and researchers of the country. But it is wrong to assume that this meeting is only a formality. Rather, the assumption and the expectation is that the points brought up in this meeting will lead the government's decision makers - namely, the honorable ministers, different government officials, and all of us who have participated in this meeting - towards appropriate scientific and academic endeavors and progress in these areas. The fact that I said "I would like to listen to your statements" is due to the same thing. The assumption is that the esteemed professors who are supposed to talk in this meeting have investigated the current state of science and the universities of the country and have come to notice a worthwhile point which they have decided to raise in this meeting. That is what I expect from such meetings. Of course, good points were raised in this meeting.

You may wonder why I exert so much effort to generate motivation in issues related to universities, knowledge, and research. The reason is that we are behind the others in this regard. We have been kept backward. My persistence is due to the fact that our progress, glory, and national Islamic identity depend on our serious efforts in this regard. We are different from, say, countries that have newly created civilizations. There are some countries in our region whose existence as a country barely dates back to a hundred years ago. There were no such geographical entities and names a hundred years ago. There are also a number of countries in our region that do not have any notable historical background. Such countries are to be found in other parts of the world as well - in Latin America, in Europe, and in other parts of the world. But our country and our nation enjoy an ancient civilization. We have roots in history. We have a long historical background. We are not a new arrival. We can and should have been supported by our past. In science, if we had progressed at the same rate as we did in the first seven centuries on the Hijri calendar, we would be at the peak now. We did not progress at that rate. Why? The causes are to be investigated. We had incompetent governments. Not enough efforts were exerted. In the last 200 or 300 years, foreign factors also contributed to the situation. And now the fact is that not only did we not progress at the rate we did in early Islam but also we started to relapse.

Now we are determined to catch up. Now the government is competent. The nation is vigilant, and our elites enjoy the required initiative. Now we are determined to catch up. Sometimes we view the Twenty Year Strategic Plan as a sign of pride. Sometimes we uphold it. Some other times we consider the plan as a set of guidelines and try to operationalize each and every clause in it. If we want to be inspirational and if we want to be considered a scientific authority in the region, we have to find appropriate ways. We must not try to find the solution in the Strategic Plan. It is the officials who have to find the solutions when executing the plan. That is what I insist on. I want this to be done appropriately and perfectly in matters related to science and research. These are the reasons behind my persistence and my efforts to generate motivation.

Of course, I have some comments and recommendations to make in this regard, and I usually repeat those recommendations in such gatherings. Today I am going to mention a couple of points as well.

One of the points that I want to mention is related to the comprehensive scientific plan. I had written it on my notes, and fortunately I heard three or four people who delivered a lecture today express the same concern. Dr. Larijani also elaborated on the issue. All these things point to the fact that efforts are being exerted in order to prepare this comprehensive scientific plan and present it as a set of guidelines to be used for future scientific planning of the country. That is good news. However, I did not know anything about this before he presented his report. I only know that this plan is being prepared in the High Council of Cultural Revolution. I mean it is being discussed in certain committees. But what I expect and what I think is necessary is that this has to be done quickly, and it must not be procrastinated. We must not have to wait for one or two years to come up with a comprehensive scientific plan. The scholars, elites, and prominent figures must complete this plan under the supervision of the High Council of Cultural Revolution. They must prepare something well-thought-out and complete on the basis of which we can make scientific plans for universities and the future of the country. I deem it necessary to advise the esteemed ministers and the honorable officials in charge of the High Council of Cultural Revolution - who are present in this meeting - to follow up this issue.

If we want the Strategic Plan to be implemented and if we want to achieve the scientific authority that has been postulated for the country, we must do these things. Most importantly, we must prepare a comprehensive scientific plan. That is a giant step forwards and an important gateway to operationalize the goals and slogans that have been proposed and are thankfully being widely discussed in scientific circles today.

The next point that is specifically related to the esteemed professors is that training successful students must be a high priority for them. Outside the academic world, the value and the prestige of the professors are judged by the students they have trained. The same is true of our Islamic seminaries. Those professors, instructors of fiqh and usul, and scholars whose knowledge and influence are demonstrated trough their prominent students are more valuable in the eye of the public. You must train prominent students. Those people who come and sit in your classrooms - both undergraduate and postgraduate students - and listen to you as the professor must not be considered as an ordinary audience listening to a lecture or moral speech. That is not the right attitude. You must treat them as handicrafts that you are going to shape with your own hands. Of course, it is a fact that all the students do not enjoy the same level of aptitude and motivation. Neither do they share the same background. However, I believe that this goal ought to be seriously pursued by the academics. Look back and see how many students you have trained. Your students are not just those who sit in your class. Your students are the ones whom you shape and present to the world of science as efficient scientific manpower.

Let me refer to the issue of the professors' presence in universities which has recently been turned into a law, according to which professors are obliged to be present at university for a certain amount of time. That is something very important and must not be underestimated. The issue of the private meetings that students hold with their professors in which they ask questions form their professors is one of the points that I have constantly raised in the last three or four years - I have repeated this point so many times that I do not want to talk about it once more now. These private meetings mean that the relationship between the students and their professors is not limited to the classroom, and students must have the opportunity to ask questions, request elaboration, and learn more. In some cases, professors should even invite their students to their rooms in order to explain a supplementary point to them. Or they should ask them to hand in an assignment or assign them to a research project. All of these require the presence of professors in universities as a prerequisite. Once we used to complain that there were not enough academics in the country. Thankfully, good professors are not few in the country now. Fortunately, the proportion of students to professors is acceptable now. I think we must pay more attention to this point. Educating students in classrooms, which I believe is the same as educating elites, is partly dependant upon the presence of professors in universities during the assigned hours - which is 40 hours in a week. This means that professors must pay serious attention to this point.

Research is the next point that I would like to mention. Of course, this point too has been raised and repeated before, but it is so important that I want to point it out again. In the meeting with government officials, I stressed this point and discussed it with them. I also privately discussed the matter with some of the officials, including the president. However, the issue is partly the responsibility of universities, which have to take the proper measures and attract the funding allocated to research purposes. Universities must spend the funding in an appropriate manner. They must use the funding where it is required most. That is all because education depends on research as the source of knowledge. If we do not take research seriously, we will have to pin our hopes on foreign sources for many consecutive years, and we will have to wait until someone does some research in one part of the world or another so that we can use his or her works or rely on secondary sources to gain access to the results and use them inside the country. It is impossible to continue like that. That is dependence. That is synonymous with relying on translation and lack of scientific independence for the country and academic circles. In addition to keeping in touch with the latest scientific developments in the world, universities and scientific circles of all countries should not shrink from scientific interaction and adopting the result of research conducted by others. I have said on numerous occasions that we are not ashamed of being instructed. But we feel ashamed when we remain a novice in all fields and at all times. It is not possible to continue in that way. Being weak in research, which is the source of scientific growth, is a flaw for a scientific group. Scientific groups must be able to stand on their own feet. Of course, they must also make use of the achievements of others and have interaction with the world. If they rely on their own knowledge, research, and scientific activities, they will find their appropriate position in global scientific interaction and will have an effective role in the world and in scientific exchanges.

As the friends who work for 'the Office of the Leader's Representatives' are also present in this meeting, let me tell them a couple of points as well.

Those gentlemen who serve as clergymen in universities representing 'the Office of the Leader's Representatives' must consider themselves as the main people in charge of promoting religion in universities. I have always told college principals and those in charge at the High Council of Cultural Revolution that they are responsible for promoting religion in universities and academic environments. But even if all the necessary measures are taken, yet the clergymen in universities cannot develop ideas that students consider to be deep, original, reasonable, praiseworthy, and convincing, all those measures will prove to be useless. You must constantly present convincing, new religious ideas and help improve the religious ideology of students. You must not think that your audiences are limited to religious, devoted, and hezbollahi students. Your audiences are the entire body of students across the country. Even those who have no heart-felt tendency towards religion are also your audience. You must try to attract them as well. You can attract all hearts if you rely on compelling logic, self-confidence, and trust in this logic. You can also help reduce - or in some cases even eliminate - antagonism.

The incidents that occurred at Colombia University are a good example to consider in this regard. To be fair, this compelling logic, self-confidence, and trust in this logic proved to be effective. Of course, it goes without saying that some prearranged measures had been taken there. More than 20 American and European TV channels had been brought to televise the meeting live. Considering what they did and the disgraceful behavior of the vice-chancellor of that university - which was truly inappropriate and was not expected from an academic person, not even from an respectable ordinary person - it was obvious that the whole thing had been arranged in order to make their guest angry or embarrassed. They intended to embarrass our president and keep the record at hand as a living document to use in their political and propagandistic uproar. But Allah the Exalted foiled their plot, and thankfully they achieved the opposite result, something that they themselves confirmed. I believe that it will take a long time for the repercussions of this issue to leave the academic environments of that country. The effects will remain as a big question and an issue in the county.

The logic of the Islamic Republic and Religion was declared there. Good points were raised regarding the view of Islam, and religion in general, on the fact that science is light and that God is the source of this light. These were good points. It is wrong to assume that when you are in an American or European environment, you ought to repeat the same things that they themselves have been saying for 100 or 200 years. It is not right to repeat the same things to them. Islam has something new to say.

Today there is truly a vacuum and a question in the intellectual world of the West. This is not of course true of those who do not involve themselves in thinking. Liberal democracy is unable to fill this vacuum, as socialism was. This vacuum can only be filled by a human and spiritual logic, which is embodied by Islam. The late Dr. Zaryab was a knowledgeable academic and a good student at the Islamic seminary. Being a student of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), he had benefited a great deal from his studies at the Islamic seminary. He was well-versed in Islamic studies. I have been told that he had taken a sabbatical towards the end of his life. He had traveled to Europe and after he had returned, he had said "what I observed in the academic settings in Europe was the need for Mollasadra and Sheikh Ansari." Sheikh Ansari's specialty was fiqh. Mollasadra was a theologian. Dr. Zaryab believed that they longed for Sheikh Ansari and Mollasadra. That was the viewpoint of a professor of Occidentalism who knew several European languages. He had lived in Europe for many years. He had studied in Europe, and was well-versed in Islamic theology. This was his viewpoint and the right one at that.

We need that compelling logic in ourselves and in our universities. This logic must be promoted through academic language. Some of the esteemed professors who delivered a lecture today also said that our dear academics need this. Academics must not think that they do not need to be familiar with these religious teachings. There is a researcher who has authored many books on Islamic issues, and his books have been translated into different languages. His books are very popular with Europeans and people living in other parts of the world. I do not want to mention his name. He told me that he had observed that the academics and intellectuals in Arab countries, especially in the Persian Gulf states, were more familiar with hadith and the Quran than our academics and intellectuals. That was ten years ago. Of course, that is due to the fact that their language is the same as that of the Holy Quran. They have less difficulty understanding the Quran by virtue of their mother tongue. They are lucky enough to speak Arabic, and they are therefore more familiar with Quranic teachings.

In any case, promoting religious ideology in universities must be treated very seriously. You must make sure that our intellectuals and students will not face any intellectual vacuum. We have many convincing things to present to the world. We must increase our publicity efforts through new and cogent arguments that are consistent with intellectual standards. I detest discussions regarding the existence or non-existence of religious intellectualism. A new and innovative perspective on religious and Islamic intellectual issues is the same as an intellectual perspective, and it must not be confused with heretic innovations. These are only new ways of understanding and expressing the same tenets the new aspects of which are discovered in the course of time. We must not treat this issue with laxity.

I hope that Allah the Exalted will bestow success on all you dear brothers and sisters. It was a fruitful meeting. I benefited from it as well. I took some notes, and God willing the details of what you said today will be investigated by the centers in charge. They will also be considered in my office and outside it. By Allah's favor, I will investigate and follow up the issues for which I am responsible. And the issues that concern other esteemed government officials - represented by our honorable ministers in this gathering - will be discussed with them, and they will, by Allah's favor, follow up the issues.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings

Source: khamenei.ir
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