This morning’s speaker was Dr. Robert Scott, President of Adelphi University. Dr Scott is keenly aware of the pitfalls of institutions of higher education. Of the many things that can detract from the essential missions of our colleges is the fact that we can go astray in academia as much as we can in business.
There were miss-steps by universities in dealing with big pharma, defense contractors and other powerful business interests. These miss-steps tend to compromise the core values of educational institutions, but on balance they resist and make corrections in course.
His warning for himself and others in his position is to be wary of the temptations that are presented to people who are dealing with budgets. Building a sports stadium and then selling the sky-boxes for hundreds of thousands of dollars is not in the best interest of the institutions. According to Scott it compromises the integrity of the school. On the other hand he admits to renting the rooftops of university buildings to cell phone providers and garnering a handsome fee for that use.
Dr Scott went on to express his belief that universities are not the trainning rooms for industry. They are the places where we deal in more than just the established knowns. They are the places where we discuss the unknowns. Universities are supposed to question what we think. He pointed out that slavery was legal and rationalized in our concept of law. Nevertheless it had to be challenged, not in legal terms, but in terms of ethics. In other words what is fair. He closed that part of the presentation with the notion that universities most function, and be viewed as ethical centers for the larger society.
Dr Scott pointed out that curiculum standards for American learning institutions are models for much of the world. As a result we attract students like no other country on earth. Long Island schools are among the best in a nation that can claim superlatives in education. (About $60 billion pours into the US institutions of higher learning attributable to fees paid by foreign students)
As an economic entity much can be said for education at this level. Adelphi has an operating budget of about $200 million per year. The combined operating budgets of all of Long Islands universities and colleges is $3.7 billion. That has an overall effect on the economy of Long Island of $10 Billion. As you can see, not small potatoes.
During the Q&A period a comment was posed about the beneficial effect of the GI Bill that rewarded our military servicemen and women after WWII. It was arguably the most effective way of keeping America competitive. Dr Scott launched into this one, and said we now have a GI Bill that young soldiers have to opt into at the cost of $100 per month. A soldier with a wife and child may opt not to sign on because of his needs and limited pay. According to Dr. Scott that was a recruiting tool with an obvious flaw. He went on to say that many of the companies that now exist here on Long Island and around the country were started by these fortunate recipients of higher education, and we all profited by their gain.