Professor Dorit Geva's Remarks at CEU's Opening Ceremony 2017

September 21, 2017

Associate Professor Dorit Geva of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, represented the CEU faculty at the university's Opening Ceremony 2017. Her remarks are below. Read more about the Opening Ceremony here.

Thank you [Provost/Pro-Rector Liviu Matei] for your kind introduction. Thank you also to our student speakers, whose energy and excitement is inspiring to all of us.

My role here today is to welcome you as a representative of the CEU faculty, and to try and share a few pearls of wisdom to our incoming students for successfully navigating your time at CEU.

We are entering a year where we don’t know what is coming our way, and I don’t mean just about the university. We do not quite comprehend if the world order is changing. What is the role of the university, the intellectual, the researcher, the civil society actor, the lawyer, the policy-maker, the business person, the administrator, the professor, or the student, at this historical moment?

But, as a faculty member at CEU, let me try and share some certainties with you.

The CEU, as you probably already know and are hopefully seeing for yourselves now, is a truly exceptional institution. It’s important to remember the founding mission of the university, which is to foster autonomous thought which is, at once, politically and socially engaged, but also detached from state-ideological projects. We will not let that change.

We are a global university, dedicated to opening intellectual borders, opening minds, and opening societies. As I have learned from my own students, and am reminded each year, never make assumptions about who is sitting next to you. Do not assume their nationality, race, gender, sexuality, linguistic group, ethnicity, or that any of those aspects tell you an essentialist story of who that person is or how they think. Being true to the principle of openness is one of our great virtues. That too will not change.

We are dedicated to academic excellence and rigorous debate. That means that your time at CEU will not always be easy. You won’t always get perfect marks, your assumptions will be questioned, and your arguments will be challenged. As a teacher and researcher, I too am challenged all the time, as are the rest of the faculty at CEU. Challenge is good. This too will not change.

And finally, the goal of your time at CEU is not to achieve a determinate answer in your chosen area of study. It’s never about having the last word. Each of you will write a thesis, and those theses should conclude by opening questions for yourselves and the rest of us.

Ten months from now, two years from now, or several years down the line, you will reach the conclusion of your thesis. Although frequently left to the last minute, the oft misunderstood conclusion is one of the most important elements of a thesis. The conclusion is not simply a reiteration of facts, arguments, or answers. Rather, its role is to show how your project leads to new questions. The conclusion is an opening.

So remember: It’s not about closure, or having the last word, but about openings. And this too will not change.

In the spirit of these remarks, I will therefore conclude with a few questions:

Which assumptions will you let go of? Which assumptions will you ask others to reckon with? And whose minds will you seek to open?