An old friend of mine used to say whatever popped into his mind without even considering whether it would be offensive to others or not. One day, he displayed a rather offensive behaviour to his host at a dinner party. When I tried to warn him, he turned to me and said, “I never refrain from telling the truth.” So, I leaned into his ear and said in a low voice:
“You’re not telling the truth. You speak what you think to be truth. It’s not a good thing.”
I am in daily contact with both employees and stakeholders as the head of a university, and I frequently come across such situations. I know so many people who blame a device or a tool for being broken or a design for being flawed whereas in fact they did not know how to operate it, or people who groundlessly complain about other people they do not like.
The reason why I never once let myself involved in such situations was because when I was a child, I was surrounded by people with strong analytical and research skills. I also had the chance to work with people who seek the truth behind anything they hear, or they are told,people who do not ever blame anyone based on rumour alone, people with moderate reactions, polite but with an attitude, people who are able to keep their private lives and professional lives separate. My mum and dad didn’t like gossip. They rather liked talking art and science at the dinner table. As I have always known how lucky I was to have this incredible family, I learned to be grateful for what I have instead of bragging about it.
I receive hundreds of emails, comments, or messages on social media every day. Most of the time, people believe their own interpretation alone to be correct. They seek my confirmation by posting comments like, “Isn’t that right, professor?” But I always reply to them with, “No, it’s not right”. Because I see that their comments are influenced by the last book they read or the last person they met. According to Statista, Turkey is the country most exposed to fake news among OECD countries and is also one of the countries with the shortest reading time per week as opposed to the most time spent on Instagram. Sadly, our people today largely get their knowledge from social media.
At Topkapı University, we try to instil the philosophy of “acquire details from multiple sources, review opposing arguments, then form your own opinion and say it”.
I believe that this philosophy will help us make a difference to today’s higher education in Turkey. With determination and patience, we will forge ahead to reach our goals.