« Alienation | Main | Subset data some observations: which[, r in a day #5 »

American research universities are rankable

The American research university had evolved into a complicated and somewhat peculiar organization. It was built to be all things to all people: to teach undergraduates, produce knowledge, socialize young men and women, train workers for jobs, anchor local economies, even put on weekend sports events. And excellence was defined by similarity to old, elite institutions. Universities were judged by the quality of their scholars, the size of their endowments, the beauty of their buildings and the test scores of their incoming students.

That created an opening for those who wanted to mimic the established schools. Buildings and scholars could be bought, and as long as the students were relatively smart when they enrolled, few questions would be asked about what they learned in college itself. Indeed, because the standard university organizational model left teaching responsibilities to autonomous academic departments and individual faculty members, each of which taught and tested in its own way, few questions could be asked that would produce comparable results.

So John Silber embarked on a huge building campaign while bringing luminaries like Saul Bellow and Elie Wiesel on board to teach and lend their prestige to the B.U. name, creating a bigger, more famous and much more costly institution. He had helped write a game plan for the aspiring college president.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)