Nobel Laureate Urges a Return to Reason on Campuses

Nobel Prize-winning Nigerian playwright, poet and novelist Wole Soyinka declared the time had come for “desperate strategies” to battle “revelatory knowledge” on university campuses in Africa and around the world.

Wole Soyinka

Delivering the opening keynote speech titled “A University for the Future: A humanist’s reimagining” at the Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies Universities Summit held at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, recently, Soyinka said his target wasn’t only religious zealots but also “market fundamentalism and the commodification of higher education” and in order to combat these forces he advocated introducing a foundation year of “materialist induction” for university students to run alongside other disciplines.

The 82-year-old Soyinka, in 1986 Africa’s first Nobel laureate for literature, also strongly condemned “political correctness”. He said it had “proved the graveyard of the world” but acknowledged that while condemnation posed a difficult question for those advocating freedom of speech and democracy, “we must recognise that hate speech has taken advantage of freedom of speech to erode the institutions founded on that principle”.

In his view political correctness had helped create the climate for the rise of the popular right with Donald Trump’s presidential victory in the United States and the Brexit vote in Britain providing “evidence of a new world view”.

Stephen Coan
is a freelance writer and editor.

This is an extract of an article that appeared in Issue No:440 of on 06 December 2016

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