Freedom of thought

Since the start of the year, KTH Royal Institute of Technology has had five schools instead of 10, a reorganisation that has helped to establish a new and more efficient organisational structure. Visiting these schools and being presented with a whole smorgasbord of exciting and relevant research that is contributing to the development of society is amazing – and very educational.

The most recent in a series of visits was to the School of Engineering Sciences in Chemistry, Biotechnology and Health. Finding out about the latest innovations in the helmet development arena, and everything from how to prevent load injuries by using sensors in clothing, to the protein atlas, foundation year programmes and the use of centrifuges for understanding the effect of g-force on people is fantastic. This once again shows how unbeatable the combination of commitment, scientific knowledge and curiosity is in the creation of solutions for future working life and the development of society in general. Our students, researchers and other staff all make every effort to ensure that KTH remains a centre of learning for our times.

It is therefore extremely negative that a matter involving one student’s actions in class has assumed huge, black-and-white proportions in certain circles – a matter that has in fact already been investigated and closed, having been addressed in accordance with standard procedures and guidelines.

As President, I cannot simply let this go unmentioned in order to avoid meaningless controversy. It is utterly nonsensical to suggest that KTH has suppressed the right to freedom of expression, as has been claimed in some social media channels. Freedom of thought and the right to freedom of expression form the very basis of our reason for being.

Even though only a small group of people seem to be encouraging and strengthening each other’s skewed opinions, I would like to quote from KTH’s ethical policy:

“KTH’s core values are based on democracy, the equal value of human beings, human rights and freedom, and a right to free speech and open discussion. Equality between men and women and the dissociation of all forms of discrimination are both a quality issue and an integral part of KTH’s core values. Equality and diversity among employees and students also constitute important resources for KTH.

KTH’s activities are based on the conviction that courses and study programmes, as well as research, can and should contribute to better living conditions and to ecologically, socially and economically sustainable social development. As a university of technology, KTH has a particular responsibility for developing and sharing the knowledge needed to promote such sustainable development. KTH’s activities should be conducted in such a way that enables its resources to be used efficiently, without compromising on quality and service.

The achievement of scientific progress is based on openness and cooperation. KTH actively strives to bring about the dissemination of knowledge, free exchange of information and national as well as international cooperation.”

This might just sound like a string of nice words. But do read them aloud, really get a feel for them and see what meaning they have for you.

For an academic institution that operates within a democracy, this approach might all seem like a given and may appear straightforward, but it should be highlighted and defended every single day.

KTH is helping to build the society of the future.