The University Record, October 29, 1996

THE PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH

Editor's Note: This week's issue of the Record includes coverage of the first two candidates for president who were interviewed by the Regents last week and met with members of the community in town hall sessions: Carol T. Christ, vice chancellor and provost and professor of English, University of California, Berkeley, and Stanley A. Chodorow, provost and professor of history, University of Pennsylvania.

What follows are excerpts from Christ's responses to major issues raised by the Regents as well as to questions raised in the town hall sessions.

By Bernie DeGroat and Jane R. Elgass                         Photo of Christ by Bob Kalmbach

Carol T. Christ

Were she selected as the next U-M president, Christ would bring with her "a willingness to take risks, to think hard on issues and to share ownership of problems and solutions, as well as a determination and commitment to uphold the ideals of the University and the public university as best I can."

She also would "embrace the best in the creation of new opportunities, service to the state, educational opportunity for the state's students, and protect the values of openness, truth, tolerance and diversity."

She says that the president and other executive officers of public institution "must operate with the utmost integrity and must be scrupulous about standards of ethical conduct, even it that means taking unpopular positions. We have to set the kind of standards we would like to see our students embrace."

 

On the reorganization of the Medical Center/U-M Health System, being prompted by rapid and dramatic changes in the health care environment:

Christ has had five years' experience in applying a 16-percent budget cut that required "hard choices and rethinking revenue streams." She notes that administrators frequently must make decisions on issues with which they are not familiar, adding that she would "seek good advice in and outside the University community." She also believes that the new reporting linea vice president for health affairs"makes good sense."

 

On affirmative action, admissions and
the affordability of a U-M education:

Christ believes in affirmative action, noting that "institutions have interests different from individuals," and that affirmative action allows an institution to achieve diversity and better serve the state's population.

She says as president, she would be committed to the ideals of the Michigan Mandate and the Michigan Agenda for Women.

She feels it is important "to move to a holistic admissions process based on students' entire experiences and opportunities," and that students should be "judged on their own merits, taking into account differences in social opportunities."

"The most important difference [for a public university]," Christ says, "is its commitment to the state's population and its mission," which should include a policy that makes aid available to any state resident who qualifies for admission.

Public universities "are the door of opportunity for a state's citizens and are one of the important ways of realizing the American dream. I want to be able to articulate that vision and to help realize it."

 

On faculty, governance and tenure:
Christ feels that tenure "is a very valuable aspect of the university system that protects academic freedom, builds institutional loyalty and reflects a deep and long commitment by faculty." She cautions, however, that tenure should not be a "shield for incompetence," adding that she feels there should be post-tenure review procedures and policies for removal of a faculty member if necessary.

"There must be a rigorous system of post-tenure review that can counsel faculty who are not performing up to standards," Christ says. "I think it's only by being rigorous about the responsible exercise of the privileges that tenure is designed to protect can the university maintain its very important commitment to tenure."

She believes that teaching, research and service should be measured equally in evaluations, with a reward system that allows faculty to change the balance of the three during their careers. She also notes that "the University should not tenure people who are not excellent teachers."

 

On the president's relationship with the
state Legislature and Michigan citizens:

Christ feels a public university "has a unique service responsibility to the state in providing a research capacity and community of professionals and scholars who can offer analytic help and reflection."

Because of the structure of the University of California system, Christ has had no direct involvement with the legislature. She says she would have to spend time "cultivating very carefully the U-M's relationship with the Legislature," not just at appropriations time, but on a continuing basis.

Leaders of public research universities must better explain to citizens and legislators the benefits that such institutions can offer, not only in educating their state's students, but also in providing community service, evaluating social policy and spurring economic development.

She also says that engaging faculty and students in service activities would be of direct benefit to the citizens of the state. The University also must concentrate on outreach activities, especially to the K-12 systems.

 

Members of the audience at Christ's Town Meeting included LS&A Dean Edie N. Goldenberg (far left) and Graduate School Dean Nancy Cantor (second from left).

Photo by Bob Kalmbach











On undergraduate education and collaboration:
Christ says undergraduate education "must be one of the three or four main goals of the institution," adding that she teaches first-year students each term. Increasing the time faculty are involved in undergraduate education and improving the quality of undergraduate life "must be in the forefront of the University's goals."

A large research university like the U-M must convey to prospective students the opportunities it can offer that other colleges cannot namely, undergraduate research programs, freshman seminars with senior faculty, and enhanced instruction through innovative information technology.

Christ also is a strong advocate of interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty and their schools or departments, and believes that emerging information technology already allows universities to share academic programs, as well as improve methods of instruction, research and service.

Further, she favors infusing multiculturalism into the curriculum in ways that involve faculty broadly across campus, giving them incentives to redesign their courses and creating intellectual communities centered on diverse issues of ethnicity.

 

On her vision of the University for the next five to 10 years and her perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the U-M:
Christ says there are "four paramount goals for elite public research universities":

 

Academic excellence, with every unit aspiring to be in the top 10.

 

Undergraduate education. This has the "paramount claim on state funds and we owe the finest we can offer."

 

Access and affordability.

 

Reinvigoration of public service.

She has "enormous admiration" for the U-M but feels several areas "need work," including the laboratory sciences in LS&A and "maintaining the richness of the research portfolio."

 

On the appropriate role of athletics within the institution:
Athletics, Christ feels, are extremely important, creating "a sense of community and spirit in a large, diverse university," as well as creating an identity for the institution. She does, however, feel that it is "absolutely essential that athletics be subordinate to the other purposes of the University. We can't have anything that compromises the University."

 

On the president's relationship with students:
Christ says a president should maintain contact with students, so students know who the president is, and would plan regular meetings with student organizations to discuss concerns. She also would "walk around campus and talk with people."

 

On Value Centered Management (VCM):
Christ supports the notion of VCM but said it does have a down side. While VCM provides incentives for efficient use of resources and clarifies real costs, it also discourages cooperation among individual units, which are vying for students and credit hours.

"There has to be a framework that guards against those possibly deleterious effects," she says. "The most important one is a strong faculty senate that maintains control of the curriculum making sure that unit totals are not too high in individual majors and making sure that schools and departments don't offer inappropriate courses just as a way of getting their workload up."

 

On the president's relationship with the Board:
Christ says the Board "makes final determination on the most important policies" and serves as a "wonderful set of advisers." The Board, she notes, is the "guarantee of public accountability." The relationship must be one of "mutual respect," with all sharing in "articulating the purposes of a public university."