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Is there anything you actually like about the U? Bill rants

From the Daily comments section:

Submitted by JR on Tue, 09/29/2009 - 9:26pm.

Mr. Gleason, I am not refuting anything you are saying about this article or any other article, but damn, is there anyone that you like at the university or anything you are happy with? I mean that lightheartedly...don't get mad. I just never see you satisfied.

Submitted by wbgleason on Wed, 09/30/2009 - 8:25am.

Good question and I am certainly not mad at you for asking it. Now that it is a little harder for the bomb-throwers to make comments on the Daily site, dialog seems to have fallen off. I hope this trend is reversed by comments like yours.

I have really strong feelings about the U because I am a graduate and think that it is a wonderful institution. It could be a lot better.

We have wonderful undergraduates. Many of them have worked in my laboratory doing research. We don't need to continually ratchet up the qualification of incoming graduates by taking people from out of state or elsewhere. But we should be doing a better job for the students we've got. Many of our competitors do a far better job than we do in the retention and graduation rate department, even though incoming student qualifications are no better than ours.

We have outstanding faculty members. Look at the Regents Professors. Many of them are in national academies and are the caliber of people that are the envy of our peers. Many of them are also excellent teachers; a recent example is Professor Larry Que. The chem dept chair, Bill Tolman is an excellent teacher as is Chris Cramer. And both of these folks are world class scientists. (This is not Driven to Discover propaganda...) Although I am a scientist, a strong CLA is also the backbone of a true university. Hampl, Clayton, Rabonowitz? And economics is (finally) being retooled. Psychology, Public Health, Pharmacy, IT - there are pockets of excellence all around the U. The U is not Dunwoody. (And I am not dissing Dunwoody.) So between the quality of the students and the quality of the faculty, I don't think we need to apologize to anyone.

The mission of the institution as written on Northrop is laudable. We are a land grant institution and that means something. We are not Cambridge or the ETH or even Berkeley. Berkeley has 240 members of the National Academy of Science and we have about thirty. This is not going to change significantly despite pompous protestations to the contrary by people like the provost. There is no way that we should be comparing ourselves to the top three universities in the world. A better goal would be to be one of the top schools in the BigTen. But our president describes this argument as that of a doubter.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The message is simple - play with the cards you've got - in the big scheme of things, they are pretty good cards.

Let's all work together to make this one of the best schools in the Big Ten, rather than our vainglorious attempt to be one of the top three public research institutions in the world. Every time I hear the words "ambitious aspirations," I think of student debt, graduation and retention rates and wonder yet again about our priorities.

I hope you realize that some of us who complain about the U do so because we believe that the U could be a lot better place, and lack of money alone is not the only explanation for our failings. It is a question of priorities.

Leadership matters.

Thanks again for your question. Sorry to rant, but you touched a nerve.

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