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  • Writer's picturePeter K F Cheung SBS

Preserving the Ivory Tower

  1. FADE IN

  2. Act 1

  3. INT. STUDY - 09:30

  4. Smartphone in hand, PETER reads one lengthy email carefully.

  5. PETER (V.O.): In 2003, I studied in the Harvard campus for the first time.

  6. Recalling.

  7. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): With support from Hong Kong Govt, I joined Kennedy School's Senior Executive Fellows Program in fall that year.

  8. Recalling.

  9. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I lived in Harvard Business School's residence by the Charles River in Cambridge.

  10. Pausing.

  11. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): One windfall as a Harvard alumni is that I've lifelong connection with the Harvard network.

  12. Pausing.

  13. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): On the current political issue, this isn't the first communication from Harvard.

  14. Act 2


  16. INT. OFFICE - DAY 11:00 (First Monday of every month) 2004 - 2010

  17. Open area. Peter and COLLEAGUES arrive, standing.

  18. PETER (V.O.): In the open area, there's transparency apart from inclusiveness.

  19. Pausing.

  20. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): It's a standing meeting, meaning it won't be too long.

  21. Pausing.

  22. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Monday means a fresh start. It's sets the monthly tone.

  23. Pausing.

  24. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I want to align team roles and aspirations, preventing the Monday syndrome too.

  25. Peter makes his opening remarks.

  26. PETER: I call this monthly meeting "ILA" ie Inspire, Liberate & Achieve...

  27. PETER (V.O.): I didn't learn any of these from Harvard.

  28. PETER (Cont'd): I sent you all the reading materials and the questions I posed beforehand. Now is the time for us to share our thoughts.

  29. PETER (V.O.): This is the Socratic method Harvard uses.


  31. A. As the facilitator, Peter poses a question to COLLEAGUE#1.

  32. B. Colleague#1 answers and Peter asks follow-up questions. COLLEAGUE#2-4 give their input.

  33. C. COLLEAGUES#5-10 discuss among themselves.

  34. D. Peter shares his reflection on the questions, answers and discussions with colleagues.


  36. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): What I learned at Harvard was to do better. My aspiration is to be better than all the others.

  37. Thinking.

  38. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): While working in Govt, I had unpleasant experience in engaging politicians. They often prioritized their own agendas over the greater good.

  39. Pausing.

  40. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Soon after retirement, I've been doing voluntary work on university governance, initially on knowledge transfer and then on all matters to preserve the ivory tower.

  41. Thinking

  42. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): For academic institutions to take sides on political issues is detrimental in preserving the ivory tower.

  43. Thinking.

  44. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Taking a stand can lead to problems like polarization, close-mindedness, confirmation bias, lack of nuance, and the "us versus them" mentality.

  45. Thinking.

  46. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Of course, there're situations where taking a stand on political issues can be necessary or morally justified.

  47. Thinking.

  48. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Examples are: Climate change, peace, non-violence, against genocide and systematic racism, rights of marginalized communities, equality of opportunity etc.

  49. Instructing his assistant in All_The_Photos, Peter types on screen: ...communicating the message in preserving the ivory tower. We see an image of an elephant appearing in seconds.

  50. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): It's obvious that the bot doesn't understand what's an ivory tower.

  51. Repeating his instructions on screen and seeing the images generated, Peter doesn't look pleased.

  52. Act 3

  53. INT. STUDY - 23:00

  54. Peter works before a laptop.

  55. PETER (V.O.): "Ivory tower" is used metaphorically to describe the isolation and detachment of academia from the outside world.

  56. Checking saved images in his smartphones, Peter selects one featuring also a bespectacled guy.

  57. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): In a connected world, maintaining the integrity and autonomy of academic institutions is paramount.

  58. Gazing at the selected AI drawing.

  59. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd):Yielding to political pressures from some quarters will turn academic institutions into political battlefields.

  60. FADE OUT

  61. THE END

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