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are able to spend less and less time on the internal academic
side of the institution. And in the end, they remain academic
leaders. And I don’t think we will have distinguished
leadership by people who are disengaged from the process of
teaching and learning and discovery and scholarship that is
the heart of what we do.
KW: How big a role do you think government should
and will play in the future of higher education’s relationship
with the marketplace?
DB
: I very much hope that we can do a good enough job
of policing ourselves so that the government doesn’t have to
come in and do it. And I don’t say that as a sort of knee-jerk
conservative reaction to government. I think that government
is essential in many spheres of life.
But I don’t think that [legislators] do as a good a job as
really careful universities could do in drawing lines—in
part because they don’t know so much about education, in
part because institutions are so different that trying to make
uniform lines fromWashington is almost bound to create
really awkward and unworkable situations on some campuses.
And of course, because the administration of government
rules is very time-consuming, with lots of paperwork that
inevitably results in mistakes that sometimes can be quite
harmful.
KW: It seems like one thing government can do, as you
suggest in your book, is provide stable financial support.
How important is that?
DB
: Stable institutional support is important because if
there are sudden drastic declines in support, a campus will
grow desperate. The cries of pain from students with lower
scholarships, and professors whose programs are yanked
out from under them, are sufficiently intense that people are
simply not going to pass up any opportunity they can find to
exploit new sources
of funding. And
it’s when you act
in that way, out
of a sense that,
“I’m doing this for
survival,” that talk of
preserving essential
values and so forth
is going to go down
the drain, because
those values are
intangible, they’re
long-term, they simply can’t stand up against an acute need
for funding now in order to avoid inflicting real pain and
damage to the institution.
KW: So what is the solution to this slide into
commercialization?
DB
: Like most things in life that matter, eternal vigilance.
You have to be aware of the problem; you have to try to
establish safeguards in the form of guidelines; you’ve got to
try to create incentives and job descriptions that make it in
people’s interests to adhere to those guidelines and to respect
those academic values. And you need to engage the different
constituencies of the university in some appropriate way, so
that you don’t simply look to one or two individuals who have
extreme pressures on them to do the whole job.
And if you do that, you could probably do a pretty good
job of resisting these problems. If you don’t, I think it’s pretty
likely we’re simply going to go the road we have in athletics.
KW: Are you optimistic that this trend can be halted or
reversed? And howmuch has been sacrificed already?
DB
: I think we’re in an early enough stage that nothing
is irreversible in the areas of education and research, which
are the areas that really matter. I think the problemwith
athletics is largely irreversible. I think we can make some
improvements, but I don’t think we can ever overcome our
problems completely. So that’s a kind of warning lesson: Don’t
let it go on too long.
Fortunately, in education and research, the process is
much younger, and I don’t see anything being irreversible.
So if we are aware of the dangers and begin to pay more
attention to resisting them, although we can never achieve
perfection, I think we can do a pretty tolerable job of keeping
our difficulties within bounds.
u
Stable institutional
support is important
because if there are
sudden drastic declines
in support, a campus
will grow desperate.