The University Record, January 24, 2000

Commissions will focus on undergrad program, information revolution

From News and Information Services

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.

Statement

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:

  • Are we recruiting students in the best possible ways?

  • Do we make a convincing case that the tremendous scale of the University of Michigan, along with its outstanding individual departments and schools, is a huge plus for many prospective students?

  • What educational opportunities and University values do we want represented in our literature?

  • How can we best structure financial aid resources and policies to achieve our goals?

  • Is the curriculum tailored to our aim of attracting the best and most interesting students? What should be our aim in enrolling international students?

  • What is the appropriate educational balance between resident and nonresident students?

    These, and related issues, also lead into a number of other questions to be asked about our undergraduate program.

  • What international experiences do we offer our students?

  • Are we on the right track of integrating research and education?

  • How should we implement and expand the learning communities?

  • What do our educational goals tell us about our residence halls? Should we, for example, have more residence halls for upper class students?

  • Are we satisfied with the degree to which we have integrated our libraries, museums and other “public goods” into the educational experiences of our students?

  • What should be the relationship of the professional and graduate schools to the 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.