|Gregorian (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)|
I could not do that today [refuse to give the lecture] because my city has been under siege. I dont want anybody to think they control our lives because that would begin to encourage everybody to think that they are in charge of our lives, Gregorian said.
Sitting toward the front and nodding assent was H. Chandler Davis, one of the three faculty members called to testify before the 1954 Congressional Committee on Un-American Activities. Davis, along with Clement L. Markert and Mark Nickerson, invoked constitutional rights in refusing to answer questions about their political associations. All three were suspended from the University. Although Markert was reinstated, Davis and Nickerson were dismissed. Davis has attended the Academic and Intellectual Freedom Lecture each year since its inception in 1991. Markert and Nickerson have passed away.
For more than two centuries, Americas colleges and universities have been the backbone of our nations progress, helping make it an economic, cultural, scientific, technological and political superpower, Gregorian said. At the same time, America has become an educational superpower. Today the majority of the worlds best universities are in the United States, and most foreign students studying abroad come to the United States.
Gregorian said that in the U.S. today:
The diversity of our higher education system gives our system its greatest strength, Gregorian said.
Commenting on landmarks leading to Americas preeminence in higher education, Gregorian also talked about areas that present problems, and, in keeping with the lecture, presented principles of academic and intellectual freedom.
Landmarks in American universities covered 1862 to the present:
President Franklin Roosevelt commissioned the report that came to be known as ScienceThe Endless Frontier by adviser Vannevar Bush. Bush argued that it was the Federal governments responsibility to provide adequate funds for basic research, said Gregorian. Basic research promises to pioneer the frontiers of human knowledge for the betterment of society.
Despite the U.S.s great success in higher education, Gregorian warned of some challenges ahead.
He noted that problems associated with the information explosion are fragmenting many academic disciplines into specialties and subspecialties. Instead of digging ever deeper into one area and disappearing into jargon, Gregorian said, the challenge is to find synthesis.
Gregorian also sees a threat in political correctness, The use of the right lingo and jargon is not a substitute for thorough analysis, sound public policy, compassionate interaction and social change.
Other challenges include teacher education, an increase in part-time and adjunct faculty members, distance learning, and commercialization of universities. But Gregorian focused most on the faculty.
The faculty is the core of the universitythe core and bone marrow. It is the faculty that has provided the university continuity and quality century after century, he said. To protect faculty, Gregorian emphasized the need for academic and intellectual freedom.
Academic freedom has become an integral part of the fabric of our universities and democracy. The first amendment and academic freedom go hand-in-hand, but academic freedom is more powerful. It has provided an institutional context and a public forum for free inquiry as a nation for generations of Americans. We cannot curb academic freedom without endangering free inquiry, free thought and the right to criticize.
The Academic Freedom lecture is sponsored by the Office of the President, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, the Academic Freedom Lecture Fund, the Ann Arbor chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and LS&A.