Friday, June 29, 2012

Agriculture professor says land-grant schools have lost sight of "people's university" mission

The 150th anniversary of the creation of the Public Land-Grant University System through the Morrill Act is this Tuesday, July 2. Public land-grant universities have made innumerable contributions to the people in states where they exist, establishing a rich heritage that will be celebrated next week in Washington, D.C. with a convocation. The problem, says Auburn University agriculture professor C. Robert Taylor, is that "common people," which land-grant universities were created to help, are "glaringly absent from the invitation list."

"Land Grant universities were intended to be the 'People's Universities,'" Taylor writes for the Daily Yonder, "with a three part mission of teaching, research and service for common people, ordinary people, the working class, the middle class in American society. People like me." He said he thinks land-grant universities are drifting away from their mission of helping and educating "common people," and the celebration in Washington highlights "symptoms of a serious disease organism," one that he hopes isn't "incurable."

Taylor says the U.S. population has shifted from mostly agrarian to mostly urban over 150 years, and he questions whether the needs of people today are the same as then, but ultimately concludes that what matters most for next week's celebration is that none of the "new people" will be represented. It's troubling for him, he writes, because the convocation will feature discussions to help set the agenda for land-grant schools for the next 150 years.

"Truth is," Taylor writes, "that elites in government and business have been increasingly influencing and often subtly setting the agenda -- especially the research agenda -- in land-grant universities for some time." He says cuts in extension funding over the years have caused a decrease in public support for land-grant schools, which was exacerbated by faculty turning inward and only conducting research and writing papers for peers instead of connecting with the public. (Read more)

1 comment:

tyler said...

As said in the article, hopefully this will be turned around.