A message from Rector Elio Franzini

To all teachers and students of the University of Milan

Dear Colleagues, Dear Students,

Unfortunately, this collective, human and social tragedy, with its different "phases", is unfolding in an atmosphere of uncertainty that does not depend on the will of individuals and institutions.

Our recent survey on distance learning was answered by almost 18,000 students – 85% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with how the University responded to the emergency. However, the most frequently occurring words in the students' comments on what they missed were contact, sharing, relationship, which comes as a confirmation of what we have been reiterating in the past weeks: we are not an online university and never will be.

The very idea of University implies presence, dialogue, attending classes, the practice of scientific research, and international exchanges. These are the horizons we want to pursue, and that's what we have been missing in recent months, with classrooms, laboratories, and libraries almost deserted.

While the scenario is still uncontrollable in many ways, and all Italian universities face a strategic challenge precisely because the slowdown in the pandemic is not its final defeat, and it is impossible to make certain forecasts, the time has come to plan our future. It is not easy to live with anxiety and tiredness, as we have been doing for months. Still, we must not give in to the dangers they hide.

Therefore, I would like to assure all our academic community that we have never stopped and, even more so, we have not stopped now: in spite of all the well-known difficulties, we are looking ahead, starting from teaching activities for the first semester of the next academic year, of course in compliance with the restrictions due to public health measures.

As I have already mentioned, the universities of Lombardy were the first to adopt distance learning when the cases of Covid-19 were still limited. Up to now we have carried out tens of thousands of hours of classes, theses and exams online. Just as we are ready to continue remote activities, so that all our present and future students can follow the lessons wherever they are, we are also gearing up to arrange meetings, in real or virtual environments, where sharing is possible.

In a moment of such great uncertainty, being flexible and ready to adjust to a shifting environment, is a duty, not a sign of indecision. 

The project for a gradual restart cannot be imposed from above: we are talking to the department directors, who, now more than ever, are called to play a responsible governance role in the academic community, and to the management committees, with a view to tailoring a general model to specific educational realities, without any impositions, which are inconsistent with a multidisciplinary university like ours. Each educational area will be supported by people who can help solve all the organizational and managerial issues related to the needs of innovative teaching.

Finally, we cannot, we must not and do not want to forget scientific research and Third-Mission activities – they are certainly the fields that have suffered the most in recent months, but remain essential goals for our university. They are our horizon as the drive to innovation is in the DNA of our university and the local area, they are the engines of a recovery in which we want to play a leading role. For this reason, compliance with safety rules in scientific and educational laboratories, and in libraries, will be essential to resume activities, step by step, and avoid any reckless behaviours, which may jeopardise our efforts in this delicate moment.

We must be aware that we have to build the post-crisis period together with intelligence and common sense. It will not happen like magic, but will take time and effort, and require new habits. In any case, it will be important to treasure the idea of a university that does not want to "sell goods", but to train in science as a vocation and a mission.

Best regards
Elio Franzini