President urges universities to return to ‘humanistic’ values

New O’Donoghue centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance opened at NUI Galway

President  Michael D Higgins: “Universities must re-dedicate themselves to originality of thought and a commitment to humanistic values in teaching.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

President Michael D Higgins: “Universities must re-dedicate themselves to originality of thought and a commitment to humanistic values in teaching.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

“Creativity” is in great danger of misuse and at risk of being reduced to an “advertising slogan”, President Michael D Higgins has warned.

Speaking at the opening of NUI Galway’s (NUIG) new O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, Mr Higgins has also appealed to universities to “re-dedicate themselves to originality of thought and a commitment to humanistic values in teaching”.

The new performing arts space, named after Galway businessman Dr Donagh O’Donoghue, is in a building formerly used as a bleach and flax mill and a munitions facility for making cannon shells. It was occupied by the 6th Dragoon Guards and the 17th Lancers during the War of Independence.

Mr Higgins noted the development was central to a 10-year partnership between the Druid Theatre Company and NUIG, and said that a “new generation of emerging talent has already begun to benefit” from its establishment.

Mr Higgins said that “creativity, properly understood, requires a commitment to work, scholarship, authenticity, and an integrity that makes a real demand on its user, that is if the word is not to be reduced to the rhetorical, or even become an advertising slogan”.

Consumption culture

He noted that the new centre’s first staged play was Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal, first performed in north America in 1928.

“It is, indeed, apt that the new centre’s first full-scale performance was of a play that critiques, so expressively, the dehumanising effects of a mass production and a mass consumption culture,” Mr Higgins.

“We are, we must realise, currently navigating our way through such a landscape, one in which rationality becomes irrationality, where the capacity to critique is imperilled,and where citizenship is undermined by the substitution of what is speculative for what is productive,” he said.

“The crafting of a response to this contemporary crisis is, I believe, a widespread challenge and one in which Irish and European universities must engage,” he said.

“Universities must re-dedicate themselves to originality of thought and a commitment to humanistic values in teaching, constantly extending their reach to deliver the sensitivity and informed literacy that we need for responsible, global citizenship,” he said.

NUIG had a “great advantage” in its “proud record for the development of artistic talent and creative thinking in successive generations of its students”, he said.