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Princeton University Press
Universities and Their Leadership

Universities and Their Leadership

by William G. Bowen, Harold T. Shapiro


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"The major essays are thought-provoking and quite informative, as they capture current thinking on significant issues within universities today. . . .A very useful resource. . .by distinguished and lively contributors."—H. Keith H. Brodie, M.D., President Emeritus, Duke University

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691059211
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/22/1998
Series: The William G. Bowen Series , #98
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

William G. Bowen and Harold T. Shapiro are former presidents of Princeton University.

Read an Excerpt

Universities and Their Leadership

By William G. Bowen, Harold T. Shapiro


Copyright © 1998 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4008-8009-6


The University and Its Critics


It is most fitting that we address the subject of the university and its critics here at Princeton University, which remains a pearl among America's research universities, shining true when so many others are accused of being made of paste. And it is fitting that we gather for this purpose during the celebration of Princeton's 250th anniversary. For here on this campus, and at this moment, we can look back over two and a half centuries and clearly see the processes that shaped today's university, the modern world in which it has come to exist, and the criticisms it must answer if it is to continue to flourish.

Princeton was, as Don Oberdorfer has noted in his beautiful book on Princeton's first 250 years, "a national institution before there was a nation," drawing its first students from at least twelve of the thirteen colonies. And from the first, it viewed its mission broadly. Mr. Oberdorfer refers us to an unidentified New Light Presbyterian founder who declared, "Though our great intention was to erect a seminary for educating ministers of the Gospel, yet we hope it will be useful in other learned professions. ... Therefore we propose to make the plan of education as extensive as our circumstances will permit."

Princeton has done that superbly, and after 250 years of leadership in higher education, the university is, in many ways, stronger than ever before. Its large endowment is a source of pride for Princetonians and a source of envy for other institutions. It has added new programs in recent years — in molecular biology, in materials science, in the environment and other fields — to keep it at the forefront of research and scholarship. It educated two U.S. presidents, James Madison and Woodrow Wilson, as well as more contemporary statesmen from Adlai Stevenson to James Baker III and George Shultz. Among its alumni are a dozen Nobel laureates, including John Bardeen, the only person to win two Nobel Prizes in the same field (physics). Many more Nobel laureates have served on the faculty, including Toni Morrison, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Other Princeton alumni include writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Eugene O'Neill, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and Wendy Kopp of the class of 1989, who founded the Teach for America program as an outgrowth of her senior thesis project. Princeton alumni continue to be energetic, generous, and involved.

If Princeton has fewer critics than most research universities today, perhaps it is because Princeton has dealt with the issues that critics complain about better than most. Although indisputably among the nation's very best research universities, it has never stopped putting undergraduate education first. Its reputation as a great place for undergraduate learning is reflected in the fact that it routinely fills almost half of its freshman class through early decision applicants.

But even Princeton, which has done so much so well during its first 250 years, must be aware of and responsive to the criticisms now affecting higher education as a whole. There is no doubt that America's universities are caught in a paradox: public expectations have rarely been higher, public confidence and support rarely lower. The complaints against universities during the last five years or so are as serious as they are comprehensive:

Unreasonably high tuition

Neglect of undergraduate teaching in favor of inconsequential research

Fragmented fields of study

Garbled educational purposes

Trivialized scholarship

Improper accounting techniques, particularly with respect to federal research funds

Falsification of experimental results

Conflicts of interest

Preaching politics

The imposition of political correctness

Perhaps most damning, in an era when the American people are being asked to "sacrifice" for the sake of the nation's long-term strength, universities are perceived as self-indulgent, arrogant, and resistant to change.

In his remarkably popular book, The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom described the problem this way: "The university now offers no distinctive visage to the young person. He finds a democracy of the disciplines. ... This democracy is really an anarchy, because there are no recognized rules for citizenship and no legitimate titles to rule. In short there is no vision, nor is there a set of competing visions, of what an educated human being is."

Charles Sykes, the author of ProfScam, lays the blame for the loss of vision at the feet of the faculty: "Almost singlehandedly, the professors — working steadily and systematically — have destroyed the university as a center of learning and have desolated higher education, which no longer is higher or much of an education."

Nor do critics view university research more kindly. Page Smith, in Killing the Spirit, contends, "The vast majority of the so-called research turned out in the modern university is essentially worthless. ... It does not result in any measurable benefit to anything or anybody."

And Thomas Sowell, in his book Inside American Education, frames his discussion of political correctness this way: "Educators ... have proclaimed their dedication to freedom of ideas ... while turning educational institutions into bastions of dogma."

These critics are, by and large, insiders who have had a greater degree of involvement with universities than most Americans, and that makes their criticisms all the more troubling.

Yet as unhappy as many Americans seem to be about aspects of their universities, most also acknowledge the institutions' great value to the nation. Having conquered polio and other devastating diseases with vaccines and antibiotics developed in their labs, surely they have something valuable to offer in the fight against drug-resistant tuberculosis and AIDS. Having given us the laser, the transistor, and the high-speed computer chip, surely they can give us more of the high technology the nation needs to compete in the markets of the world. Having conferred substantial earnings advantages on their graduates, surely they can continue to provide economic opportunity to future generations of young people, especially those from groups not formerly well-represented in higher education. Having applied research to make American agriculture preeminent, surely they can apply social science to redeem America's cities. And although it is much harder to document the contributions of the liberal arts or humanities, whose teaching has itself become a target of criticism, surely these disciplines still have much to teach about what it means to be human.

But why have the expectations for universities grown at the very time confidence in them has declined? What is often unrecognized in the current debate is the extent to which the universities have already changed from the ivory towers of earlier years. Woodrow Wilson, in his sesquicentennial address of 1896, "Princeton in the Nation's Service," proclaimed a commitment that had characterized Princeton from its earliest days. Since then, Princeton and other research universities have become, both by demand and by choice, far more actively involved in the large issues of public life. They are now citizens, partners in a social compact that places great responsibility and high expectations upon them. They provide not only the products of their research but also experts who can advise government and business, and graduates with the talent and energy to engage the issues of tomorrow.

In their greater social engagement, universities have themselves undergone significant changes, some of them controversial and confusing. I believe that these changes reflect deeper changes rooted in America's character. The most critical deeper changes are inclusiveness, professionalization, and the ascendancy of science. I want to talk about each of those in turn and then suggest how we might deal effectively and productively with the evolving interface between universities and the society in which they are embedded.

First, universities have deliberately become more inclusive in their membership and in their programs of study and research. In aggregate, they have made a deliberate and far-reaching commitment to equal access and social mobility. The origin of this commitment can be traced back to the founding of the land-grant colleges in the nineteenth century, but the pace of the process has accelerated in the past fifty years, and it has come to embrace all institutions, private as well as public. In the 1920s and 1930s, Princeton had no black students enrolled and very few Jews. President Robert Goheen turned the tide in the 1960s, convincing the university and its board of trustees to actively recruit black students. Black enrollment climbed from 7 in 1962 to 318 in 1970. The university's "Official Statement of Commitment to Diversity," issued in 1994, indicates that Princeton's commitment continues: "We actively seek students, faculty and staff of exceptional ability and promise who share in our commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship and who will bring a diversity of viewpoints and cultures." In fall 1994, minority and foreign students comprised nearly a third of the incoming class of 1998.

Even more progress has been made on the status of women at Princeton. The graduate school was the first to admit female students, beginning in 1961 under rules that granted entrance to women qualified for studies that were unavailable elsewhere. It became fully coeducational, along with the rest of the university, in the late 1960s.

When President Goheen brought the idea of coeducation to the trustees on June 12, 1967, he said, "In my judgment, the time has now come when it can no longer be reckoned to Princeton's advantage to postpone entry into the education of women on a significant scale. ... A university with so profound a sense of obligation to the world can no longer, I believe, ignore the educational needs of one half of the human race." After careful study, coeducation was approved on January 11, 1969, by a 24–8 vote of the trustees.

Universities have also become more inclusive in their curricula. They have responded to public needs by offering new fields of study from environmental health, safety, and policy issues to urban and regional planning, from gerontology to real estate management. These inclusive changes in membership and in programs, and the growth in size they have brought with them, have effectively ended the isolation of the campus and transformed the nature of the university. Ivory towers they are no longer; they are, more than ever, embedded in the society that surrounds them and reflective of its membership.

Second, over the past fifty years, university studies have become far more professional in the scope of their curricula and far more practical in their orientation. It is not the presence of professional and practical studies that is new but rather their dominance. Most of the new additions are professional, while longer-established schools — of medicine, dentistry, public health, law, engineering, architecture, agriculture, management, public communication, and other professional disciplines — loom larger than ever before, both in enrollment and in influence. Premedical education, for example, has had a major influence — distorting and stifling in some ways — on the general pattern of undergraduate education. Even the humanities and social sciences, disciplines that were once coherent fields of study, have now been splintered and subdivided into a host of subspecialties in an attempt to link them more directly to training for a specific career.

Princeton has resisted these temptations more successfully than many institutions, maintaining a single faculty that conducts research and instructs graduate students as well as undergraduates and avoiding the temptation to establish separate professional schools in fields such as law, medicine, and business administration. It does now have a school of architecture, but between 1948 and 1995, the number of academic departments at Princeton increased from twenty-six to thirty-two while the number of interdisciplinary programs increased from three to more than thirty. That shows commendable restraint and a willingness to think broadly about knowledge.

Third, the ascendancy of science, both as a professional study and as a dominating influence, has noticeably changed the culture of the university. Unlike most other countries, the United States concentrates much of its basic research in universities rather than in government laboratories and institutes. Along with the desirable results of this arrangement — the closer linkage of the basic sciences to medicine and engineering, the practical benefits of the association of education and research — there have been results of more debatable value. The model of scientific knowledge — abstract, quantifiable, impersonal, "value-neutral" — has been adopted uncritically by other fields, and the style of teaching — factual, sequential, undebatable, and unengaging — has often had a baleful effect, not only within science but also far beyond it.

It is the cumulative effect of these changes, which began to build around the turn of the century and accelerated rapidly after World War II, that underlies virtually all the charges that are leveled against America's universities.

America's research universities may attract half the world's graduate students, but they also attract controversy as they try to resolve the political, social, and cultural conflicts of the larger society. Like it or not, the moral influence of the great universities has diminished as they have assumed new responsibilities and new priorities and established new partnerships with business and government. Moral pronouncements tend to flow more freely from those in ivory towers than from those with rolled-up sleeves and grimy hands laboring in the trenches. And as Alexander Astin's annual surveys of freshman attitudes have shown, far more freshmen today believe it is more important to prepare for a well-paying career in college than it is to find a meaningful philosophy of life.

But on the whole, the new university's benefits to society have been immense, and the changes wrought by increased inclusiveness, professionalism, and the ascendancy of science are very much American. Though their effects on our universities seem compressed into several decades, they sum up the journey America itself has made since its founding. But inclusiveness, professionalism, and science, without a moral foundation, lead to empty success. Universities, as much as nations, need their moral moorings. More people knowing more facts about more fields has nothing to do with how wisely or happily they live. However dazzling may be the material implications of palm-held supercomputers, they will not in themselves elevate the quality of our national life any more than television did fifty years ago. I would not presume to reform society at large, but I do have some ideas for our universities.

As Princetonian Adlai Stevenson wrote in What I Think, "Criticism, in its fairest and most honest form, is the attempt to test whether what is might not be better."

In that spirit, I believe there are three simple affirmations we need to make to the public if they are to understand that research universities are unique and vital and serve a role that no other institutions in our society can fill.

The first affirmation is this: scholarship is a public trust. Our scholarship is supported by the public, and that puts two obligations on us that I see rarely fulfilled across the country. First, as creators of knowledge, we must also engage in explanation and application where appropriate. We need to become advocates for scholarship because our voice is not being raised in response to the Allan Blooms, Page Smiths, Charles Sykeses, and all the rest of our critics. Most of us regard our scholarship as completed when it is published, exhibited, or performed. But we need to move beyond mere publication to explanation and advocacy for research as such. We hear again and again that useful research is the only kind worthy of support by the state or federal government. We must become champions of the scholarship we represent.

Within this affirmation of scholarship as a public trust, we must also begin to build bridges internally so that we link research to the undergraduate experience in increasingly effective ways. And we need to build bridges to the community and linkages between our colleges. We talk a lot in universities about interdisciplinary efforts, but in practice most universities are still divided into departmental cells. For educational and economic reasons, we must work to build bridges, not walls, between researchers and scholars with complementary interests no matter where in our administrative structure they may be found.

The second affirmation I believe universities must make is that service is a social obligation. Our greatest service is providing educated men and women and highly trained professionals for society at large. But we should also reexamine other ways in which universities are of service. Not every research program will yield marketable results, and I would be the first to argue for a strong program of federally funded basic research. But if service is truly a social obligation, then we must do far better than we have in ensuring that the fruits of our research are developed for the public good.


Excerpted from Universities and Their Leadership by William G. Bowen, Harold T. Shapiro. Copyright © 1998 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Contributors xi


The University and Its Critics, Frank H. T. Rhodes 3

On the Accountability of Higher Education in the United States, Martin Trow 15


University Presidents - Then and Now, Harold T. Shapiro 65

On the History of Giants, Hanna H. Gray 101


A Neglected Topic: Professional Conduct of College and University Teachers, Henry Rosovsky with Inge-Lise Ameer 119

How Can Universities Teach Professional Ethics? Amy Gutmann 157

Unity or Fragmentation, Convergence or Diversity: The Academic Profession in Comparative Perspectice in the Era of Mass Higher Education, Oliver Fulton 173


A Time for Audacity: What the Past Has to Teach the Present about Science and the Federal Government, Daniel J. Kevles 199

New Policies for New Times, Frank Press 241

On the Future of America's Scientific Enterprise, Maxine Singer 251

Index 259

What People are Saying About This

H. Keith H. Brodie

The major essays are thought-provoking and quite informative, as they capture current thinking on significant issues within universities today. . . .A very useful resource. . .by distinguished and lively contributors.
H. Keith H. Brodie, M.D., President Emeritus, Duke University


"The major essays are thought-provoking and quite informative, as they capture current thinking on significant issues within universities today. . . .A very useful resource. . .by distinguished and lively contributors."—H. Keith H. Brodie, M.D., President Emeritus, Duke University

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