From the President's Desk

From the President's Desk

No. 90

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Entering a new phase with One Health

A commencement ceremony for the Jockey Club One Health Tower (the Tower) Superstructure was held on 2 March at CityU. What would have been a grand event was conducted through Zoom instead due to Covid-19 precautions. 

The site for the Tower used to be occupied by the Chan Tai Ho Multi-purpose Hall, the roof of which collapsed in 2016 due to a faulty design by external parties. However, any crisis can be turned into an opportunity. Our proposal to build a One Health academic tower five times the size of the original Hall was approved by Council. 

In the past year and a half, Hong Kong has experienced social turmoil and the impact of the pandemic. Many businesses are still living under a shadow. With the coming of spring, “The flower buds and willow sprouts burst to life with their indifferent loveliness /The purple butterflies and golden bees flit around as if they understand my feelings”. This complex, and non-government-funded, project with a total construction cost of over HK$2.3 billion is expected to be completed in 2023. Thanks to The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust’s generous donations, it will be one of the most super-efficient, large-scale university infrastructure projects ever built in Hong Kong, starting from the initial proposal to the formation of the concept, raising funds, the design process plus appraisal and bidding. 

Hong Kong is widely acclaimed as a place of outstanding people. But unfortunately, there is a lopsided emphasis on degrees rather than real scholarship, neglecting the wisdom of our ancestors who “knew how to evaluate horses not according to their appearance”. Education today is focused on the training of insignificant skills at the expense of the cultivation of liberal values and the capacity to think independently and uphold facts. Due to historic reasons, even though many people in Hong Kong are enthusiastic about using advanced scientific and technological products, they often follow existing practices rather than act as creators or innovators. This is partly because the government indulges complacency while interest in the fundamental study of maths and physics is lacking and there’s a scarcity of artistic and humanistic influences.

For example, students tend to flock to prestigious universities that are weak in the disciplines that they are interested in instead of avoiding mediocrity by applying to places of learning that better reflect the applicant’s passions and are better recognised. In addition, few top students pick science and technology as their first choice, resulting in the misplacement of talent and a waste of resources. Glossing over this kind of mindset using fancy language is deep-rooted in all sectors, even among adults, which sets a bad example and leads society astray. THAT is our concern!

The Tower has many design characteristics, including a 200-metre indoor running track to be housed in the Hu Fa Kuang Sports Centre, which is to be built inside the Tower and extends to a 1,300-metre outdoor running track. Just as I wrote in my book Soulware: The American Way in China’s Higher Education (Wiley-Scrivener, 2019), universities should be concerned with the physical and mental well-being of the community and individuals in addition to pursuing teaching and research excellence. 

Exercise is medicine, after all. While mountains may not move, roads do. We have taken great pains to design a running track on a crowded campus, which will be another first of its kind in Hong Kong, because we recognise the essence of exercise and we want to encourage young people to adopt the traditional spirit of Bruce Lee, who believed in dealing with people and pursuing actions in a dignified manner, contributing to its well-being and accepting challenges with head held high. 

Meanwhile, we proposed to establish a school of veterinary medicine as early as 2008 and, after several ups and downs, finally fulfilled our dream in 2014 in collaboration with Cornell University in the US. At the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, we engage in the study of the interdependent relationship between humans, animals and the natural environment under the One Health paradigm. Seven years after we established the College, Covid-19 is plaguing the world! In-depth exploration of veterinary medicine will continue through the Tower, as well as through our veterinary teaching farm in Lam Tsuen, for years to come.

Young people need to build strong physical and mental health first; and then protect the environment; value and learn to coexist with animals; and pursue knowledge one step at a time rather than being obsessed with degrees. 

Way Kuo 
President and University Distinguished Professor

Note: The original Chinese version of this article was published in Sing Tao Daily on 2 March 2021.

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