Education, training, and the research university

Is the job of the university just to provide new knowledge from its research activity and trained workers from its students? Where does education fit in?

Two weeks ago, the University of Virginia’s governing body, the Board of Visitors, fired the president of the university. The move, of which there had apparently been no foreshadowing whatever, was accompanied by a statement about the need to “develop, articulate, and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential” and some mutterings about something called “strategic dynamism.” In addition to the word salad, there was other evidence that the firing was part of a coup by business school alumni on the board, including the appointment of the undergraduate business dean as interim president. The faculty and students went ballistic.

Today word came out that the president will be reinstated: I guess when the Governor ordered the board to resolve the matter by today or be dismissed en masse, the message was clear, since the faculty and students had made it clear that they wouldn’t accept any other resolution.

I’ll be visiting the University of Virginia this fall, teaching the introductory course in the Batten School’s new undergraduate major in public policy. Last week I was in Charlottesville for a curriculum meeting, with the board’s ouster of the University’s popular president looming in the background. As it happens, the conversation at the meeting overlapped with what I suspect was the deeper issue between the president and the board.
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