Recipe to Destroy a Great Public Higher Education System

At first glance, Wisconsin and North Carolina do not seem to have much in common. Brats vs. Barbecue. Football vs. Basketball. Cheeseheads vs. Tar Heels. North Carolina has 4 million more people than Wisconsin. North Carolina gets an average of 5 inches of snow per year. Wisconsin gets that much in November alone. Despite the differences between the states, they both have had one thing in common that has led substantially to the success of both both states:  a great university system. Sadly, they also have something else in common these days: political leaders seemingly hellbent on destroying their great university systems. When reviewing the higher education policies in these states, you can easily see that both serve as a recipe to destroy a great public higher education system.

As much as (if not more than) nearly any public university system in the country, the University of North Carolina and the University of Wisconsin lifted their states socially and economically. Both are known for world class research and offering high quality education to their state’s population.

Moreover, both university systems have a long history of service to the state eschewing the Ivory Tower trend.

Simply put, UNC and UW have been models for a great public higher education system for generations.

Everyone should agree: UNC faculty lost institutional control

The NCAA has issued the formal Notice of Allegations (NOA) against the University of North Carolina related to the ongoing academic scandal at the institution. The allegations contain no major bombshells or smoking guns. Rather, the facts related to the case have been fairly well known for a while now. However, there is a point that has been lost in much of the blame, finger pointing, public relations maneuvering, and the thousands of words written about this issue. This point was clear in the NOA and must be acknowledged by all parties: UNC faculty lost institutional control of the academic integrity of the university.

Photo credit: UNC News

I have written before about my belief that the scandal was the substantially a governance failing.  I’ve also said that I don’t care about athletics or athletic penalties- I want to repair and restore the academic integrity of the university.

UAB Football: Wrong Decision for the Wrong Reasons

UAB President Ray Watts has announced that the institution is “taking steps” to reinstate the football program just six months after eliminating it. I wrote at the time that the move was the right decision for the wrong reasons. Although members of the UAB community are understandably thrilled with the reversal, I’m not. In fact, I believe the announcement was the wrong decision for the wrong reasons.

President Watts, Chancellor Robert Witt, and the University of Alabama trustees grossly misrepresented the original decision to cut football. They also dramatically underestimated the backlash that would result.

Higher education, science, and research

The deployment of nuclear weapons near the conclusion of World War II was not the first time technology influenced events on the world’s battlefield. Indeed, technological innovation has proved a constant ingredient in battle throughout the course of human history. However, the scientific success of the nuclear scientists working underneath the University of Chicago’s football stadium in 1942 ushered in an era of increased U.S. reliance on science and technology in the pursuit of national security. In today’s post, I will discuss the history of higher education in the post-World War II period related to national security, science, and research. In many ways, I believe this period set the foundation for how we have subsequently viewed higher education’s role.

Nuclear researchers under University of Chicago football stadium Photo credit: University of Chicago

The new reliance was based in part on the success of the partnership between higher education and the government during World War II. Many believed that public higher education could play an important role in the transition to peacetime and an economy without the benefit of massive wartime production.