What is a University For?
Allen C. Lynch
Thank you very much, Lu Jing, for your kind introduction. And many sincere thanks to the School of Advanced International and Area Studies at ECNU for having invited me to join your program as an adjunct faculty member.
I am especially glad to see many of my students from two years ago who are now about to graduate.
I want to give very special thanks to Professor Feng Shao Lei, whom it has been my honor to know since I first visited China in 2003. I have complete admiration for his scholarship on Russia as well as for his commitment to building international studies here at ECNU, during his many years as Dean.
My university in the United States, the University of Virginia, has a rich set of relationships with ECNU, including exchanges of:
Professors (for example, Professor Liu Jun, now Dean: in 2006 I was his teacher at Virginia; now he is my boss here at ECNU!);
PhD candidates (for example, Tang Huiyun, who now works at the Shanghai Social Science Research Institute);
MA candidates (such as Wang Lu, who now is an administrator at St. John’s East China University of Law and Political Science);
as well as undergraduate students. (Indeed, right now, a group of Virginia students is spending the summer at ECNU studying Chinese under the supervision of my colleague, Professor Charles Laughlin.)
What is it that we do, as scholars, as teachers, in the university setting? It is, to the maximum extent possible: (a) to develop the life of the mind; (b) to cultivate the habit of free, independent, and critical thinking; and (c) to so broaden the community of intellect that the university may truly live up to its name: universal in intellectual curiosity, universal in disciplines covered, as well as universal in geographical scope. You only have to look around the auditorium for evidence of your achievement.
And so I congratulate my colleagues at ECNU for their dedication and success in pursuit of this noble mission.
I see in the audience many of my students from 2016, when I taught a course on Domestic Politics and US Foreign Policy. Quite a number of them were Russian, there were several Ukrainians, an American, and several other nationalities, including some Chinese students. This year, too, we had perhaps a majority of Russians, as well as some Ukrainians, an American, an Iranian, among other nationalities, in my class on US-Russian relations.
In each of these two classes, we had intellectually meaningful and civilized discussions on topics that were often difficult and politically controversial. And yet, I can say in all truth that ECNU is one of the very few places on this planet nowadays where Russians and Americans are actually listening to each other!
(Loud and prolonged applause.)
For that, I congratulate my students and I congratulate ECNU for admitting such an impressive group of young scholars to its graduate programs. Truly, it can be said, “By your students you will be taught.”
In closing, congratulations to the graduating class of 2018! And congratulations to ECNU for living up to the name of “university”!
Thank you for your attention.
ECNU, June 22, 2018 于逸夫楼三楼多功能厅