David Helfand on Higher Education

David Helfand on Higher Education

October 21, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


[ Silence ]>>David Helfand: I think a difficulty that
universities face today that they didn’t so much 40 years ago is that they’re
trying to do very many things, most of which are good social contributions,
but they diffuse the energy of the institution and the people in the institution
to the point that the focus on undergraduate education is lost. So universities are supposed
to be real estate developers, and biotech spin off company generators, and creators of new scholars
and caring for sick people. And all these things detract from the
individual faculty members’ time to focus on undergraduate education,
at least part of the time. So I’ve seen this expansion of roles
really detract from the quality of time that undergraduates get to spend
interacting with experts in their fields. And I don’t think that technology can replace
that human interaction that takes place around a small table with
a bunch of undergraduates. [ Silence ] Well I wouldn’t want to presume to specify
how Dartmouth should spend its next 250 years, but I believe the strategic
planning process really needs to look carefully at what
you can effectively do. You are a modest sized research university
but you are primarily Dartmouth College. And I think there are people and I know
some of them on your faculty who manage to balance beautifully the deep engagement with
undergraduate education and scholarly research. Keeping that balance is critical. If you push too far in the
direction of research, you’re going to lose what’s unique here. And so I would like to see a real focus on the
problem of how one constructs a reward system, a tenure system if you will, and an ethos
that equally values both of those aspects and sees them as one as the way for an
intellectual to educate, not to train, but to educate, the next generation. [ Silence ] It depends how the reward system is set up as to
whether or not research and teaching are viewed as oppositional or as an integrated whole. I think it’s very important first for
scholars to remain intellectually alive, and secondly for them to give their
undergraduates a window into what it means to work hard on a problem to
which you don’t know the answer. So I think it’s critical that
faculty remain involved in research. But it should be involved in research in a way
that can draw undergraduates into it rather than push them away because they’re too busy. [ Silence ]