Saturday, March 04, 2006

Who Is the College For?

Interesting piece in last week's New Republic about the Larry Summers fiasco at Harvard. Peter Beinart makes some good points about academe and raises the all important question of who the institution is there to serve: the students or the faculty? Summers was trying to push some important changes -- more top-shelf faculty touching the lives of freshmen by teaching low-level survey courses, tenured professors doing relevant research, etc. -- and Harvard's faculty failed the institution's students by creating a national controversy because Summers was disrupting their sweet deal (lifetime employment with a carte blanche to do what they want).

My alma mater, Boston University, is one that could use some of these very changes. Top-level faculty should teach both small, upper-level specialty courses and large, lower-level survey courses -- adjunct faculty shouldn't bear the brunt of teaching freshmen and sophomores, and those students should be given their money's worth, with instruction from the institution's top experts from the get go. Summers was trying to make that a reality, and he should not have been demonized as a result.


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