President Lee C. Bollinger released a statement Jan. 19 announcing the formation of two commissions, one on the undergraduate program and the other on the information revolution, that over the next several months will take up issues of major importance to the future of the University.
Membership of the two groups will be announced in the next few weeks, the president said, adding that since the principal attentions of both commissions will be on academic planning, he will work closely with Provost Nancy Cantor in making the appointments. He expects interim reports this spring and final reports and recommendations early in fall term 2000.
The first [commission] will focus on our undergraduate program. Over the past decade, much has been done to improve what we offer to undergraduates. The small seminar series, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, and a host of other small and large initiatives have made the educational experience of undergraduates richer. But there is still much to be thought about, and we have justifiably high aspirations.
Among the questions we should be asking ourselves are:
These, and related issues, also lead into a number of other questions to be asked about our undergraduate program.
Knowing what we think about such questions is undoubtedly important. Part of what we need, however, is a better sense of priority among the issues and a general understanding of how to deal with them over an extended period of time.
The second commission will focus on the relationship between the University and what has become known as the information revolution. This is, of course, a phenomenon that includes but also transcends the Internet. The exponential increase in human communication may have, and many certainly believe will have, profound consequences for our world. This brings us three fundamental issues we simply must address:
First, are we, in our research and teaching, appropriately addressing these matters, ranging from the consequences for nation states, to the potential alterations in human behavior and consciousness, to the creation of the underlying technology?
Second, and turning now to the technology itself, how should we use it in our own activities of research, teaching, and public service? This subject ranges from the use of the computer in instruction to the newest developments for wiring the campus.
And, third, to what extent, if at all, should we turn our attentions and resources to the function of what is presently called distance learning? A number of universities are beginning to make significant commitments in this area, and a few of our own schools have developed such programs. This is a matter of great significance to the University and must be thought through carefully.