From O-Week, With Love

1 March 2013

David Braddon-Mitchell
"Our minds have two kinds of abilities: believing and loving," said David Braddon-Mitchell at the Undergraduate Welcome symposium on 'Love'.

As part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences' O-Week Undergraduate Welcome, first year students packed into Wallace Theatre to listen to five University of Sydney scholars debate the concept of love. The event was moderated by Professor Duncan Ivison, the Dean of the Faculty, who told the crowd that he was "very glad to have assembled a monopoly of the Faculty's finest minds to join us on a steamy afternoon".

The debate was held in the style of a 'symposium', an Ancient Greek tradition first recorded by the philosopher Plato in 385 BCE. A symposium, commonly understood as "a forum in which to debate, plot or revel with others", is perfectly suited to the lively O-Week event program.

In the preceding years, the symposium has proved a great way to give new students a taste of the different subjects on offer in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. In the symposium, five academics from different departments are each given five minutes to use a concept as a lens to showcase their area of study. This year, the concept was 'Love'.

In line with the theme, Professor Ivison welcomed the students and told them to pursue what they love. "When you do what you love it leads to good things," he said.

Professor Colm Harmon from the School of Economics was the first of the scholars to speak. His humorous take on "love as a commodity" contrasted with the debate put forward by Professor David Braddon-Mitchell from the Philosophy arm of the School of Philosophical and Historical Enquiry.

"Our minds have two kinds of abilities: believing and loving," he stated. "Believing is about modeling how things are. Loving is about how we want them to be." The two scholars juxtaposing presentations highlighted to the students the depth and breadth of units on offer to them.

Dr Gaynor MacDonald, Department of Anthropology, told the new students that the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences "loves critical thinking", and that a study of Anthropology teaches students that "we don't always love the same things in the same ways".

"Understanding how and why people are different could be the most important life skill you can learn," she said.

Associate Professor Bronwyn Winter from the School of Languages and Cultures, said that her Department "speaks love's many languages" and demonstrates love in all its cultural forms. She used the example of Japanese and the many different words that they have for varying levels of romantic affection.

Professor Duncan Ivison
Dr Chris Hartney is crowned winner by Professor Duncan Ivison.

Representing the School of Letters, Art, and Media was Dr Chris Hartney. He started his five minutes by singing Billie Holiday's "My Baby Just Cares For Me", and ended by stating that the Faculty "will always care for their students more than any baby will." Either his singing (doubtful), or his inspiring message about the truest form of love being a wholehearted devotion to your area of study (more likely), saw him named this year's winner of the symposium. He was crowned with a classical-style ceremonial wreath.

At the end of the debates, a University of Sydney Union [USU] representative asked students to turn to one another and introduce themselves. Professor Harmon had earlier stated that "statistically students are likely to meet their life partners at university", so it was a potential moment where the day's theme of "love" came to life. At the very least, new students will be falling head over heels for the Faculty.

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Contact: Kate Mayor

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