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By Nisha Gill, Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed plans for McMaster University’s Socrates Project. Launched in 2018, the Socrates Project began as a two year-long initiative intended to foster stronger connections between the University and the broader community through events such as lectures, debates, round tables, concerts and artistic exhibitions. 

Due to the closure of the University and the Ontario’s restrictions on gatherings, the Socrates Project has had to cancel the remainder of their planned in-person events for the winter and spring semesters. Additionally, other initiatives run by the Socrates Project, such as the Cod & Steel summer exchange program, have had to be cancelled.

“COVID-19 has had a major impact on the Socrates Project, requiring the cancellation of many, many events exhibitions, guest speakers, conferences and a long-planned student summer employment exchange,” said Socrates Project director Rina Fraticelli. 

Although the events have been postponed indefinitely, this is not the end for the Project. Since the cancellation of classes on March 13, the Socrates Project has posted hints on their social media that  something new and exciting will replace some of their previously planned programming. Recently, the Project announced their new YouTube channel. The channel currently features six of the past year’s lectures, including Designing Reality: the Third Digital Revolution by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld and Towards a New Politics of Migration by Bridget Anderson. 

The Project is also planning to run two live lectures through Zoom: Learning Lessons from COVID-19: With Dr. Ahmad Firas Khalid, which took place on April 9, 2020 and Breckenridge Memorial Lecture: Legislating in Polarized Times with Sarah A. Binder on April 22, 2020. These lectures are not only part of the Socrates Project’s plans to adapt to current circumstances but also a way to help viewers adapt to and learn from these circumstances. To participate, you will need to register ahead of time on the Socrates Project’s website

“I think the world is far from being at a standstill in fact, if anything, this pandemic is showcasing our capacity for invention, for resourcefulness, for community. The level of intelligence and generosity that has been in evidence is extremely heartening. It gives me hope that we can see it applied to building a better ‘new normal’. What this catastrophe reveals, if we’re willing to look, is the need for maturity and vision in the design of our policies. That’s the job we have now; to analyze the policies and practices in our societies that propelled the worst impacts of pandemic, and those that are helping to mitigate them,” said Fraticelli.

The Socrates Project is not focused on only adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also on maintaining a positive outlook by continuing their planning for the next academic year. They will be planning for better and brighter days ahead.

“[W]e’re continuing to work hard on a very exciting and far-reaching festival we’re planning for the end of September. The festival, SHIFT 2020, will bring together scientists, artists, scholars and community members for a series of events that aim to shift our attention from the source of our crises to the sources of solutions [. . .]  SHIFT 2020 is the final event of The Socrates Project,” said Fraticelli.

Furthermore, the Socrates Project recognizes the importance of individual impact in both adapting to the current situation as well as maintaining a positive outlook.

“I’d love students to remember that the future is up to them. Each student has a unique capacity to influence, for better or for worse. And this pandemic is an unprecedented classroom for studying the world as it is and the world as it might be,” said Fraticelli.

The Socrates Project’s response can help us to remember not only the importance of adapting and re-strategizing in difficult times, but also the importance of remembering that there will be better and brighter days to come in the future.


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