Hamline forum tonight: What's the value of higher education, and who benefits?

Hamline University is co-sponsoring a fall forum on "Values in Higher Education," and I'll be there to tweet (@MPRAFriedrich) and/or liveblog it starting at 6:30 p.m.

It's presented by the Minnesota American Association of University Professors, and takes place at the Giddens Learning Center on Hamline's St. Paul campus.

Here's the panel:

  • State Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter), who's also an associate professor in communication studies at Gustavus Adolphus College;

  • Richard Davenport, president of Minnesota State University - Mankato;

  • William Beeman, professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota;

  • Ananya Chatterjea, professor of theater arts and dance at the University of Minnesota; and

  • Michael Livingston, professor of psychology at St. John’s University.

Moderator: Eva von Dassow, professor of classical and near Eastern studies at the University of Minnesota, who is also vice president of the MN AAUP.

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(Beeman is also an AAUP officer at the U, from what I know.)

Audience members will be able to question the panelists.

Here are the three main questions to be discussed:

1) “The real issue is increasing the value that we, the University, bring to the State of Minnesota, to its stakeholders, and to our students." (Eric Kaler, President of the University of Minnesota, quoted in the Pioneer Press, July 7, 2011)

According to its mission statement, the University of Minnesota “is dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth; to the sharing of this knowledge through education for a diverse community; and to the application of this knowledge to benefit the people of the state, the nation, and the world.”

(See http://www1.umn.edu/regents/policies/boardoperations/Mission_Statement.pdf.)           

What is the value of the university, or of higher education in general?  How may that value be defined?  Is it capable of measurement, and if so, by what sort of measure?

2) The 2011-2012 bill authorizing the state appropriation for MnSCU and the University of Minnesota (HF1101) directs the governing body of each system “to place priority on meeting the needs of Minnesota employers for skilled workers and focus on efficient and streamlined delivery of higher education to prepare students for the workforce needs of Minnesota.”

(See Article 1, items 4 and 5, in the summary of the bill: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/bs/87/HF1101.html.)

In contrast, the charter of the University of Minnesota, the first institution of higher education founded in this territory, states that, “The object of the University shall be to provide the inhabitants of this Territory with the means of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the various branches of Literature, Science and the Arts.”

(See Article 3 of the charter: http://www1.umn.edu/regents/polchart.html.)

Who or what is meant to benefit from higher education?

3) Under “educational priorities,” HF1101 directs MnSCU and the U of MN to achieve certain performance goals, such as the following: increase the number of degrees conferred; increase the 4- and 6-year graduation rate; increase financial aid; increase the number of online or blended courses; produce total research and development expenditures for 2012 in an amount not less than reported for 2010; and produce sponsored funding from business and industry in an amount not less than reported for 2010.

(See Sec. 4, Subd. 3, and Sec. 5, Subd. 2, in the full text of HF1101, at https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=H1101.3.html&session=ls87.)

How do such performance goals relate to the value and purpose of higher education?

With a room full of faculty, I can imagine it'll be a good discussion.