When people weren't talking about the global swine-flu outbreak or the out-of-control weekend party in Dinkytown, I heard a lot of conversation today, across the University, about Mark Taylor's op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled, "End the University as We Know It."
Taylor, chair of the religion department at Columbia University and an occasional writer about design, concentrates on graduate humanities education in his comments, but his argument applies to all fields, including ours. In response to the myriad challenges facing higher education, he calls for restructured, interdisciplinary, problem-focused programs, led by non-tenured contract faculty working collaboratively with colleagues in other universities to prepare students for a much wider range of careers.
Taylor's piece will no doubt antagonize many. I think his main argument, however, remains indisputable: higher education must become "more agile, adaptive and imaginative" if it is to thrive in an era of dramatically reduced resources. The academy, in other words, needs redesigning and our disciplines have much to offer. We should show in our own example what alternative scenarios for the future of higher education might entail, doing what Taylor suggests to his students: "take whatever I have to offer and do with it what I could never imagine doing."