University of Vermont

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Precipice or Crossroads: A Symposium on the Future of Public Research Universities

October 10 - 12, 2012 - University of Vermont

At a time of intense anxiety about the well-being and long-term viability of the great national resource represented by America’s public research universities, the Symposium will bring together institutional leaders with top scholars and commentators on higher education. Through intensive dialogue among keynote speakers, panelists, moderators, and registered participants, Precipice or Crossroads proposes to sharpen understanding of the challenges and potential solutions before the nation’s public research universities. The Symposium builds on the year-long focus on the history, role, and future of public research universities promoted by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in observation of the Sesquicentennial of the Morrill Land-grant Act. The meeting will be hosted by the University of Vermont in the home state of the Act’s author, Justin Smith Morrill, and at the university where Morrill served as a trustee.

The Symposium will open late Wednesday afternoon, October 10, 2012, with a keynote address by former Congressman Jim Leach, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Four panels on Thursday, October 11, will address 1) Changing Institutional and Instructional Models; 2) The Role of Public Research Universities in the Total Educational System (including preK-12 and post-secondary, public and private); 3) Costs, Strategic Resource Investment, Finance, and Governance; and 4) Student Opportunity: Tuition, Access, Affordability, and Diversity. Robert Zemsky, of the Learning Alliance at the University of Pennsylvania, will deliver a second keynote late Thursday afternoon. There will be two more panels on Friday, the first on sustaining excellence in research, scholarship, and the arts and the second a summary discussion of all of the issues addressed in the course of the meeting. The Symposium will adjourn by noon on Friday. (See the link at left for a detailed meeting schedule).

Confirmed participants to date are scholars, members of governing boards, university leaders, and national higher education journalists. They include Goldie Blumenstyk (reporter and editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education), Coy Cross (author of the book Justin Smith Morrill, Father of the Land-Grant System), Michael Crow (President, Arizona State University), James Duderstadt (President Emeritus, University of Michigan), Ronald Ehrenberg (Professor and Director of the Cornell Institute on Higher Education, Cornell University, and trustee of the State University of New York), Judith Genshaft (President, the University of South Florida), Martha Heath (Chair, House Appropriations, Vermont State Legislature, and former trustee, University of Vermont), John Hudzik (Professor, Michigan State University), Scott Jaschik (Inside Higher Ed), Tamar Lewin (the New York Times), Jon Marcus (the Times, UK, Higher Education magazine), Peter McPherson (President, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities [APLU]), David Shulenburger (Senior Fellow, APLU), Tom Sullivan (President, the University of Vermont), Jane Wellman (Executive Director, the National Association of System Heads and founder, the Delta Cost Project), Dave Wolk (President, Castleton State College), and Nancy Zimpher (Chancellor, the State University of New York).

The Symposium host is Daniel Mark Fogel, Professor of English and former President of the University of Vermont, who, with Elizabeth Malson-Huddle, edited the SUNY Press book Precipice or Crossroads? Where America’s Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway through Their Second Century. The Symposium Precipice or Crossroads is partially supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which has made possible the modest level at which registration fees have been set. The panels will be catalyzed by focused and provocative questions, and panelists will have shared concise written answers to those questions with each other before convening in Burlington. They will be invited to revise their answers if they wish to do so after the dialogue at the Symposium, and their final positions will be posted to the World Wide Web. Each panel will provide, at a minimum, thirty minutes during which registered participants will be able to present their own observations and to pose questions and challenges to the panelists. Capacity is limited, but registration will remain open through October 4th provided that spaces are still available.

For more information and to register, visit the Precipice or Crossroads Symposium webpage.