Samuel Martín-Barbero: “We have a major responsibility to encourage the individual freedom of everyone we educate”

The Rector of University Camilo José Cela, Samuel Martín-Barbero, gave an interview to the ‘University Campus’ program, an International Radio program devoted to higher education, in which he was given the opportunity to explain the hallmarks of internationality, interdisciplinarity and innovation that set apart the UCJC’s educational model. The Rector has also referred to the importance of educators in students’ education and the responsibility of the university to educate citizens in freedom of thought and opinion.

“University Camilo José Cela was born with the ideal and practical application of wanting to foment a different idea of educating in the higher education space,” he said at the beginning of his speech. Samuel Martín-Barbero has confessed that he feels that “the fact we are a young university is a blessing” and that this necessarily means that “we have to be different. There is substantial space for improvement in higher education in order to have a greater impact on society, not just being obsessed with accumulating knowledge and being able to control it”.

In the interview he outlined the benchmarks that three and a half years ago his team used as role models, young and private universities from countries such as Germany, Israel and the United Kingdom, who transfer a new way of understanding university to their teaching staff and student body. “Universities with a strong teaching vocation, that are not only focussed on the number of scientific articles they publish, but more on the impact that teachers have on students”.

A change of mentality in teaching

The role of the teacher is key to the development of studies at university. “Students flee from master-classes where lecturers get up on a lectern to give a lecturer. The young people of today are looking for a teacher who listens, who makes learning dynamic, who is approachable and with whom they can argue and discuss ideas from an intellectual point of view, who encourages critical thinking and who cultivates values”.

At this point, the Rector highlighted the decision that his team took recently to promote active teaching methodologies. “We have decided to break with traditional spaces. We are the only university in Spain that no longer has walls, cubicles, offices for its teachers“. And related to this revolution, he outlined what this has meant in terms of a change in cultural management for university educators and professionals. “We all share an ‘open space’ culture, not only from the physical point of view, but also in terms of having an ‘open mind’, to free minds from a physical conditioning of the space that leads to improved exchange of ideas and experiences”.

Educate in freedom of opinion to exercise freedom of expression

The journalist who interviewed the Rector of University Camilo José Cela, Carolina González, asked about his speech at the Spanish Senate a few days ago.

Freedom of expression takes us as far as we allow it, but if we do not use it, it leaves us in a very narrow corridor from the point of view of freedom of opinion“, he warned. “We live in turbulent times in which truths are sometimes, in the best of cases, half-truths. Sometimes it is convenient to simply discuss the facts, the sources, the versions, and not let yourself be guided or manipulated. The world that has been dubbed as the age of post-truth or of fake news, is real, it’s a fact. And it does not depend solely or exclusively on the position or attitude taken by some news media, but on the institutions in general”.

Samuel Martín-Barbero alluded to universities, also, as responsible for educating in values of citizenship. “All those of us who are responsible for generating knowledge, generating opinions, generating culture, have a major responsibility to encourage the individual freedom of everyone we educate“. In his appeal, the Rector urged “to question all the information that we receive. We should not think that we are necessarily being lied to or manipulated, but we should obviously evince a kind of rational, logical, intellectual curiosity which ensures that we are not only responsible for our deeds, but also for what we say. We call for freedom of expression, opinion or thought, at a time when it is not easy to argue against the prevailing point of view.

Listen to the full interview here: