Youths in the Digital Era, at the Università Europea di Roma

At the opening ceremony of the academic year 2019 – 2020 of the Università Europea di Roma  held on the 20th of February 2020 titled ‘Youths in the Digital Era’ the Rector Professor Father Pedro Barrajón Muñoz, L.C., the President of the  Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization the Most Reverend Rino Fisichella, Professor Emmanuele F.M. Emanuele Chairman of Fondazione Terzo Pilastro – Internazionale and the Professor of Clinical Psychology Benedetto Farina, delivered their addresses.

The Rector Professor Father Pedro Barrajón Muñoz, L.C declared, “Universities – as a place where students calmly look to the future with confidence, wishing to give the best of themselves to form a human community where wide ranging peace and justice reign: peace among peoples, peace with the universe, peace with oneself –  play a fundamental role in building a country’s future.  Even in a changing world, universities continue to be the privileged place to assimilate the great challenges of the future and where, in a way, the solutions may be anticipated.  However, confidence – which occasionally needs to be regained by overcoming fear – and a strong sense of shared responsibility are needed to accomplish this task because we are all called to give a  clear, mindful and efficient response to a calm and sincere commitment, within our ability, to build a more human society, where we may look to the future with hope, despite the various structural and cyclical issues.  In particular, the official opening and launch of the UER Residence in 2019 was finally made possible through the fundamental support the Congregation, as part of a wider project to increase the services of the Campus mainly for the benefit of non-resident students. The UER Residence is close to the university and surrounded by large green areas and is capable of accommodating up to one hundred non-resident students and offers the most modern services and conveniences as well as seminars training programmes and a personal tutor thanks to a team of trainers who are always available.  Hence the UER Residence also becomes a privileged environment for the integral training of the students who live there, in full continuity with our university’s integral training programme. Individuals and institutions should aim to become leaders of the common good in order to overcome indifference, which could be one of the greatest temptations of today. Therefore, it is essential to continue our effort to foster a sense of a university community that looks to the future with confidence, strongly aware of the roots and a realistic perception of the present.   In this regard, as the Università Europea, we try to continue on our path remembering with gratitude the past, living with passion the present and looking forward with confidence to the future.  We are aware that on this journey, sustained by great educational ideals and with the strength of a living community of professors, students and technical and administrative personnel we may contribute to the common good, not only as careful observers but above all, as leaders of the building of a future that, while posing great challenges, offers the chance to make great achievements.”

Moreover, the balance outlined by the Rector is very good: in 2019 the Università Europea di Roma had over 1.500 students an increase of 25% in the last year, ranking as the first of the small non-State universities in the Censis Italian Universities classification 2019.

The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the Most Reverend Rino Fisichella, declared, “The digital culture presents several characteristics worth analysing.  Unlike the cultural process as known hitherto, the digital culture has established itself as a global and globalising phenomenon.   The hic et nunc immediacy has been introduced; language appears more synthetic, disintermediated, essential, frequently summarised in an image that expresses the current emotion and understood by intuition.

Digital technology allows data storing, helps our memory and our social and personal life.   We are witnessing a real anthropological transformation.  A new phase of evangelisation has started for the Church and it is a challenge not to be missed. The real question is not how to use the new technologies for education but how to become an educational presence in the digital continent.

The world of Internet, albeit unregulated, is highly topical and debated and imposes itself on the life of youths.

The speakers’ different points of view generated an interesting and constructive debate.

Professor Emmanuele F. M. Emanuele, Chairman of Fondazione Terzo Pilastro- Internazionale, affirmed, “Today man is experiencing the digital revolution, closely related to technological progress, the advent of Internet, global networks and the explosive growth of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.  In the face of this challenge, which is triggering a cross-sector and even anthropological transformation as well as fear and uncertainty just like in past global step changes, I believe we should be fundamentally optimist about man’s ability to adapt to and govern this phenomenon, and take advantage of the opportunities for increased wellbeing and development, which it undoubtedly offers,  whilst retaining two obligatory principles: protection of dignity and the integrity of man, in the most complete and profound sense.

To address this crucial challenge responsibly and with determination, we must start from training and expertise.  Consequently, I am convinced that all the stakeholders, public and private, should inevitably ensure the utmost commitment to offer the new generations the cultural and educational tools needed to compete on this rough ground.

Whilst providing the new generations with the cognitive, professional, scientific and cultural tools, I still firmly believe that the ethical and spiritual dimensions of man – who should always and in any case govern, completely independent from the hardware, electronic data processing and applications in various fields –  should be in no way neglected  or taken for granted, on the contrary they must constitute the unfailing and non-negotiable criterion for any curriculum.

Fondazione Terzo Pilastro – Internazionale, which I have the honour to Chair, has already opened the way in this direction by creating, upon my initiative, the first master’s degree course in Italy on Artificial Intelligence, legal, ethical and anthropological profiles, in association with this University, which excels in the national landscape due to its brilliant educational and scientific insights and social sensibilities  that distinguish it from other universities.

The psychiatrist Benedetto Farina, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Università Europea di Roma, closed the ceremony by presenting a report on the impact of the digital revolution and denouncing the development of a Do-it-Yourself learning system in which any form of cultural mediation practiced by teachers, professors, editors, journalists and scholars has faded.