The two universities
The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize that there is not one, but two universities. The two are related but still entirely different.
The first university is the formal university. It is made up of students, academics and staff, offices and administrative infrastructure, but also the entitlements associated with all this — job titles, research grants, social hierarchies. In the formal university you have a career, there is power and money to be fought over and privileges to be distributed.
The second university is the university of the spirit. This is the university in which the intellectual activity takes place. This is where you think, read, write and discuss. In the university of the spirit there is no infrastructure, no entitlements, no resources, no careers and hence nothing to fight over. This is a realm of freedom and equality. Or rather, the only thing that matters here is the better argument, the better research.
I’m strongly in favor of quotas for women in the formal university. I think titles, research grants and office space should be shared equally between women and men. Divide the power and the privileges 50/50, why not? But I’m equally opposed to quotas being imposed on the university of the spirit. No outsiders should be able to dictate how we think, read, teach and discuss.
Ever since my cancer I’ve tried to have as little as possible to do with the formal university. I don’t want to get involved in fights over careers and job titles; I don’t want to apply for research funding and distribute patronage. These are all earthly matters and a waste of time. Time for me, for us all, is limited. All I want to do is to read and write and teach. I want to work full-time in the university of the spirit.
My grandfather, who was a vicar in the Church of Sweden, liked to quote Saint Paul: “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” My grandfather was a missionary of sorts in the far north of Sweden and he cared little for the official career paths of the Church. He was also a republican. There could not have been many vicars in the Church of Sweden in the 1930s who were opposed to the idea of monarchy. Perhaps he was the only one. My grandfather did not work in the formal Church he worked only in the Church of the spirit.