"If we are candid, we know that universities are weakened every time their practices betray their rhetoric. They are weakened every time the experience of undergraduates belies the glowing language of their college catalogs. They are weakened every time narrow personal interests override the needs for collegiality and the wider interests of the academic community. They are weakened when they ignore practices that diminish their effectiveness and tolerate organizations that provide disincentives for both individual development and collegiality. They are weakened when narrow interests subvert the larger interests of the community, and they are weakened when administrative leadership allows the second best to flourish at the expense of the best. Universities are places of extraordinary privilege and freedom, created by a tolerant public and supported by private and public beneficence. But with that privilege and freedom there goes great responsibility, and it is that, I sometimes fear, which is in short supply.
There are, it seems to me, half a dozen basic requirements that are necessary if universities are to avoid internal degeneration and remain flexible and responsive to changing societal needs, while still retaining distinction in teaching, research and scholarship:
• They require bold, decisive, and visionary leadership from those in positions of authority, especially presidents, provosts, and deans.
• They require effective and imaginative management of resources, not only at the institutional level but especially at the departmental level, and especially a greater determination than they have yet shown to constrain and reduce burgeoning costs.
• They require a new commitment to clients, among whom I include students— to whom they have their first and largest obligation, both as the chief providers of revenue and as those for whose benefit they were created— as well as alumni and society at large.
• They require a more general willingness to come to terms with new expectations, unacknowledged issues— such as the loss of mandatory retirement— and constrained levels of funding in research, which will, I believe, constrain the areas of scholarship represented on many campuses and perhaps change the traditional balance between teaching and research.
• They require the restoration of community, which will come about only when universities create rewards and incentives for engagement and cooperation across the campus.
• And, finally, they require new patterns of governance, especially in the public universities, which are now in serious disrepair.
I shall not presume to elaborate on what each of these will require on particular campuses, but I do realize that confronting these issues will involve not only a measure of inconvenience, and perhaps consternation, but also lively debate and both personal and institutional reorientation. That seems to be an inevitable, but not necessarily undesirable, outcome. It is easy to grow complacent, denying the reality of the need for change, insulated as universities generally are from many of the external pressures."
Rhodes, Frank H. T., President Emeritus of Cornell University (1997), em The American University - National Treasure or
Endangered Species?, Edited by Ronald G. Ehrenberg, Cornell University.