How Community Partnerships Could Create the University of the Future
In the media’s continuing coverage of how the economy is ruining all the best laid plans of higher education, the New York Times asks, how many public research institutes does the nation truly need?
Have universities like Arizona State, in their drive to become prominent research institutions, lost focus on their public mission to provide solid undergraduate education for state residents? What can public universities do to weather these economic conditions, and at what cost?
Historically, public universities have been at the mercy of state funding, cutting back or spending more depending on whether it’s been a good year or not. In drought years like this one, universities are faced with increasing tuition across the board while reducing faculty and staff and implementing enrollment caps. But while these measures are designed to fix immediate budgetary problems, public universities are unlikely to survive intact if they fail to change their underlying funding structures from an untenable system of competition for limited resources to one of broad, cross-disciplinary collaboration.
The financial mess that public universities find themselves in has been building steadily over the last 10 years. After unprecedented growth during the 1960’s of the state university system, by the 90’s those same systems began to topple under the weight of their own enormity as the increased number of universities within state systems was forced to compete for declining state funds. In 1998 former UC-Berkeley chancellor Robert Berdahl sounded the alarm on the peril large state systems would find themselves in if they tried to build too many expensive flagship universities.
Berdahl argued then that, “The competition for resources and the criticism directed at research universities have combined to create a political dynamic that puts many of the best public institutions at risk.” Berdahl acknowledged the failings of large public universities whose desire to become top ranked institutions had led to devaluation in the quality of undergraduate education, advising, and public service.
How can public universities wean themselves off of reliance on state funding? Necessary changes have already been implemented as individual departments and faculty members compete for more stable sources of funding through organizations like the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). But not surprisingly, these funding opportunities are highly competitive and alone cannot account for university budget shortfalls. Likewise, while external funding is being more widely invested in profitable fields like biotechnology or pharmaceutical research, more traditional fields like History or English are faced with even fewer funding options as existing funds from limited sources like alumni donations dry up. Under the existing system of survival of the fittest, the public university may potentially look much more like a corporate sponsored research laboratory in the near future. Comparative Literature departments may very well be a thing of the past.
But it hasn’t come to that—yet. President of Ohio State University E. Gordon Gee believes state systems can weather the storm not by hunkering down, but by radically reforming the fundamentals of higher education. Gordon calls for increased cooperation among various state system schools and communities, creating local and global research partners and encouraging collaboration instead of competition. He sees it as the responsibility of higher education “to seek new kinds of collaborations – with business and industry, government, and advocacy groups of all kinds.” I think Gordon is onto something, especially as more and more public universities have opened dialogues allowing students, faculty, and staff alike to have a potential role in creating this change. But Gordon’s plan also face enormous challenges—business, industry, and government don’t always have the community’s best interests at heart.
Is it pure idealism to hope that by investing in community partnerships, public universities can transform into the new University 2.0? Can more localized funding in the form of collaboration with local businesses create a sustainable university?
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- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.
- The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
- It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
- Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.
- Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
- The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
- The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
- Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
- Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
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