The American University: National Treasure or Endangered Species?

By Ronald G. Ehrenberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
No Limits

William G. Bowen

AT ITS CORE, the American university is very much the same institution that it has been for some time. In no way is it "endangered." Indeed, the American university is a national treasure, created and developed with ingenuity and devotion and vested with the capacity to serve society into the indefinite future, as it has done since its establishment, in roughly its modem form, in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The American university of today—the "new" American university—is a national treasure precisely because it is, in many respects, the "old" American university.

Is there another institution that embodies as many positive possibilities? I don't think so. Do universities—and those who inhabit them—display an occasional wart? Of course. But their deficiencies, limitations, and occasional absurdities (including self-inflicted wounds) are nothing compared with their positive accomplishments and their potential.

These institutions do not need anything approaching radical surgery. Rather, they need "loving critics," to use John Gardner's

-18-

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