Image: Vitruvian Man (c. 1485/90), drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519).
Text by the Editorial Team of Os Fazedores de Letras. Translated by Tomás Ferreira and revised by João N. S. Almeida
After a period of silence of about a year, caused by technical problems and some other unforeseen mishaps – a period during which a significant number of our collaborators gradually left the paper, for various reasons –, a new edition of Os Fazedores de Letras is now published. This edition represents a step further on the way to becoming the newspaper we want to be: an uninhibited press forum bound to high standards of writing and information. Os Fazedores de Letras are not saloon entertainment, neither is it a monochrome political pamphlet, nor, we should add, a place where that which is not worthy of being published anywhere else gets published. We are a student newspaper of a School of Arts and Humanities which aims at being a boon to the academic community and at making itself heard beyond the bounds of academia, bringing whatever is produced inside to the wider community, which we are proud to belong to, as well as bringing what happens outside to the attention of the members of this School and this University.
One of the ways in which we can serve the community in which we are inscribed is, precisely, by sharing quality writing and art. Aiming at that goal, as was already our policy, we priviledge and seek to foster intellectual and artistic merit, maintaining a careful process of text selection and copy-editing. Furthermore, we have decided to expand the number of our collaborators and, consequently, of the topics covered and the readership ulteriorly intended. To that effect, we went out looking for several people that we knew beforehand to have interesting ideas about topics of actual relevance and interest and we invited them to write for us, regardless of their being students, professors or people from outside the academic milieu. In fact, one of our functions is to promote a symphony of voices and dialogue between different generations and professions, as well as to be a vehicle of ‘unity in difference’ and in the sharing of a same space and concerns about identical topics. So, the reader will find, in the coming months, several names of professors from this and other schools among the list of our contributors. Among them we can find (but they are not the only ones) Prof. Pedro Zuzarte, MD, a psychiatrist and faculty member of the Medical School of the University of Lisbon, as well as Prof. Maria Leonor Xavier, Professor of Medieval Philosophy of our School of Arts and Humanities.
Also, besides the numerous students that have now begun or will begin to collaborate directly with us, we want to highlight two other kinds of contributors. One of those kinds is people from foreign countries and from other national universities. Considering that this School, or indeed any university, lives by the shared exchange of experiences and cumulative wisdoms and is now embarking on a process of internationalisation and of highlighting abroad the work we do here, it would be fitting that this student newspaper also fosters the exchange of experiences and the attention to voices from other universities, regardless of where they are from. So, predictably, our long-time international contributors return, such as Theo Howe from the University of Cambridge, whose work we have published regularly since issue 79, and to them others are added. Our own IT technician is Mikhail Titarenko, a master of Informatics from the University of Donetsk, in Ukraine (or rather, to be precise, in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic). Another positive innovation is the various contributors we called for from several religious orders. As this is a school of Arts and Humanities, we should here bring to mind something that is not at all unknown in Letras but which is always worth pointing out: the fact that, ever since the 13th century, religious orders, especially the mendicant ones of the Franciscans and Dominicans, have had an absolutely fundamental role in giving life and form to university culture and shaping the knowledge that came to be ministered in universities all over the world. Here among us at FLUL we need only remember the example of the venerable Fr. Joaquim Cerqueira Gonçalves, OFM, who taught in our Department of Philosophy until his retirement, having been a teacher and mentor of many who are now our teachers. We consider this mendicant Christian element one that is highly beneficial and which will give, we are sure, many and good fruits. We take this opportunity, therefore, to welcome all our new contributors, of all provenances and more, always bearing in mind the diversity of viewpoints that the newspaper wishes to harbour. Regardless of the great importance and preponderance of the Christian religion in the aforementioned university culture, we further believe that good journalism has some kind of obligation towards the cultural and religious plurality which is present in the world we live in, and to endeavour that all readers have an opportunity to come in contact with distinct realities in a fair way.
The next point we have to make is the reiteration, in writing, of an announcement that is not at all new. As most of those who attended the General Student Meeting of the 9th May 2019 will remember, our Student Union was, at the end of the last academic year, about to be closed due to bankruptcy. So the leaders of the Student Union advised the editorial team of Os Fazedores de Letras (DOFL) to send them a letter of disassociation that would legally unbind the newspaper from the Student Union, so that the former might not be closed down together with the Student Union. That was timely done by the DOFL (the composition of which has, in the meantime, changed) in June/July. The Student Union ended up not being closed down but, having the letter of disassociation been sent, received and accepted by the Student Union, Os Fazedores de Letras consider themselves formally and definitively disassociated from the Student Union, although we are still, together with the same Student Union, trying to clarify the legal and financial implications of this move. This may seem unfortunate or unfavourable to some but is, in fact, very much a good thing. On the one hand, it opens the door for a healthy cooperation on equal footing and not in a relationship of subordination; on the other hand, it gives Os Fazedores de Letras more freedom to autonomously look for other institutional relations and financial support – something which had already been being recommended to us by the Student Union since a new DOFL was elected on the 23th March 2018. Furthermore, this disassociation gives more credibility to the position of Os Fazedores in that it sets us free from partisan politics and pressures. We are not, as was said above, a political pamphlet. We are, we will be and are proud to be an independent newspaper, plural and uncorrupted, which aims at being constructive within the academic and civil communities to which we belong with great pleasure.
We want also to let it be clear that we understand all too well the obligations that an independent press forum which is, nevertheless, inextricably linked to the particular community of the School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon, has towards the society in which it is placed. One of those duties is that of actively and constructively participate in the debates that animate our society. Such is inscribed in the history of this newspaper in an indelible way. Let us bring to mind that, right from the moment it was founded in 1993, and for a good many years afterwards, Os Fazedores de Letras adopted the cause of the right to independence of East Timor, for which it fought fearlessly. Since 1999-2002, the years in which the process of formalising the independence of East Timor and having it acknowledged internationally, it could be said that Os Fazedores de Letras ‘ran out of causes to defend’. Such is not completely true, in that we still had the cause of the improvement of the system of higher education in Portugal, but in practice we were left without significant international causes. Now, the student body of FLUL is mainly comprised of young people who have the future in their hands and, in many cases, the will to fight for it, whether it is towards a global acknowledgement of the climatic emergence (of which our collaborator and friend Pedro France is an ardent activist), or for the support for refugees and developing countries. It is important that, after an examination of our consciences and the realities of the world, we are able to fight for the causes we see ourselves in. That said, it is not possible to replace individual conscience; but institutions too should have values and causes and so, after discussion amongst ourselves, we decided to adopt for the newspaper four causes of undeniable sociopolitical importance. The first of those causes is that of the acknowledgement by the Portuguese State (and also by other countries who have not done so) of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923; the second is that of the liberation and acknowledgement of the independence of Tibet by the world power which has occupied it since in the 1950s – China. A third cause we will seek to defend concerns the resolution of the political tensions dating from the Cold War, thus seeking to foster dialogue with intellectuals, artists and students of Eastern Europe and Russia. Finally, one last cause concerns the defence of human dignity and human rights, above all in countries where one can observe a notorious disrespect for them, namely in what concerns the treatment of ethnic, religious and cultural minorities, as well as of the LGBT community and of political dissidents and activists – for instance, in the case of China, which worries us particularly. These four choices can be explained in a relatively succinct manner, but we preferred to do so in another article so as not make this editorial unduly long.
Finally, we wish to highlight our linguistic and practical causes: just as we are in favour of having the so-called TLEBS revoked, at the basic, elementary and high school levels in Portugal, we routinely defend and generally adopt the old orthography, that is, the orthographic norm prior to the implementation of the Orthography Agreement of 1990, although that is obviously not mandatory for contributors and only applies to texts written by the editorial team.
The Editorial Team