Questioning the Mission of College
THE flagship campus of the University of Texas here has been in the national news often over the last year, mainly because of a legal challenge to its race-conscious, diversity-minded admissions policy.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in October; its decision, not yet rendered, could affect affirmative action nationwide.
But there’s another, equally weighty contest being waged at the school, and it concerns nothing less than the future of higher education itself.
Do we want our marquee state universities to behave more like job-training centers, judged by the number of students they speed toward degrees, the percentage of those students who quickly land good-paying jobs and the thrift with which all of this is accomplished? In the service of that, are we willing to jeopardize some of the trailblazing research these schools have routinely done and the standards they’ve maintained?
Those questions are being asked and fostering acrimony on campus after campus, the one here in Austin chief among them. In public remarks over the last few years, Hunter Rawlings, the president of the Association of American Universities, has called Texas both the “epicenter of public debate about the function” of higher education and “ground zero” in a welling crisis…
By FRANK BRUNI
Published: April 20, 2013
(The New York Times)