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Updated 11:00 AM November 24, 2003



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Provost address to Senate Assembly
Courant: U-M accountable for mission, as well as bottom line

The University should be accountable for creating and transmitting knowledge, as well as its need to operate with financially sound practices, Provost Paul N. Courant told the Senate Assembly Nov. 17.

"We should be held accountable for our mission, not just our bottom line," Courant said. "Our responsibility is to ensure that we push the frontiers of knowledge in every field, that our graduates go on to full and productive lives—making contributions to the world we live in—and to help society grow and develop intellectually, scientifically, culturally and in other ways."

“We do many things that add value to society.”
—Provost Paul N. Courant

Courant said calls for accountability in higher education stem from concerns that the cost of a college education is too high for many families, and that it is hard to measure the value of what universities do. He said there are many reasons for society to support higher education, and there is much evidence demonstrating that universities are doing a responsible job, and that college is much more affordable than is widely believed.

"We do many things that add value to society," Courant said. "The return on investment is not always as clear as it would be in a report to shareholders. What we do is very public, easily observable, and testaments to its value can be found in business, medicine, government, the arts and in the stories of individual lives."

U-M absorbed a cut of 10 percent in state funding last year, and the outlook for this year is bleak, Courant said. He said the University's resources from the state are equivalent to 1998-99 levels, while the costs of energy, salaries and benefits continue to rise.

But, he said, U-M still should be held accountable in providing every student the chance to maximize his or her abilities.

"We owe it to our benefactors to be careful stewards of the resources they have given us," Courant said. "But we must not compromise on our mission. We cannot do less than is required to give our students and our world the best chance of creating value, of solving new, surprising and important problems, and of leading fulfilling lives."

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