Ghent University conducted unusual social experiment in classes and outside

Ghent University is challenging everyone to dare to think, to question conventional views and to dare to take a nuanced stand. #daretothink is in our DNA and we encourage everyone to do the same.

The university wanted to see how long it took for students to respond and object to dubious, incorrect statements made by their professors. The intention was to challenge them to question certain views. DARE TO THINK - the credo of Ghent University - stands for daring to think ’critically’, a real bonus in a society where fake news is an everyday reality.

The reactions of the students were filmed during classes given by three professors (Johan Braeckman, Mirjam Knockaert and Lieven De Marez). Do they dare contradict their professors? on

The Ghent University experiment was also extended to hanging up anonymous posters containing provocative statements around Ghent and Kortrijk. ’Poverty is a genetic disease’, and ’Female circumcision is the best way to prevent infections’ are just some of the statements that have confronted passers-by in recent weeks. They were also met with spontaneous, critical and (often robust) reactions. From today daubed and annotated posters will be visible for several weeks all over the city.

Dare to think

The objections in classes and the reactions to the posters reflect Ghent University’s philosophy: to urge students to think critically.

Ghent University’s rector Rik Van de Walle: ’Society needs people and institutions that not only dare to contradict but are allowed to contradict, without needing to win the debate. Ghent University is a critical university with a clear voice in the social debate. We dare to think, it’s in our DNA and we encourage everyone to do the same. Moreover, we are pioneers, bringing this discussion to the table. We educate our students critically in a creative development-oriented learning and research environment and we like to position our education and research in a broad social context.’

Ghent University sees it as its mission to prepare younger generations for the future and thereby develop a critical and independent mind. It is because of people who dare to think that the world progresses and that we know the earth is not flat and we aren’t at the centre of the universe.



Isabel Paeme
Department of Communication and Marketing
T 09 264 82 61 - M 0479 68 96 32
isabel.paeme [at] ugent (p) be