Mark Wrighton: First I'd like the opportunity
to spar with anyone on the value of research universities in the
future. I think we have a bright future, I think there's a compelling
reason for our existence, and I think the track record speaks
for itself. I'd also say I love technology. I like it personally,
and I came to this meeting hoping to meet some interesting people,
and that's been very fulfilling. And I also had the expectation
I'd learn something, and to a degree I have. One thing I've learned
is that you can forget everything you've been taught and some
would argue you're still educated. And I'm not sure that's entirely
true, but I'll accept it because my memory, though excellent,
I want to make a few comments in four areas. I'm going to give
what I think are the assumptions at least as I see them, some
of the issues that follow from the assumptions, the opportunities
that I see for Washington University and potentially for others,
and then close with a few words related to Wrighton's philosophy
on how we might approach some of these areas.
First the assumptions. Technology is pervasive, technology is
expensive, and arguably-and I think we can disagree on this to
some extent-technology is needed. New students are better prepared
and will be increasingly so, especially with respect to their
adept use of technology. Change will occur, change will be rapid
and will require-considering the relative sluggish development
of new resources within the university-the changes will require
reallocation of what we have. Fourth in assumptions: consensus
is needed in order to make progress in any of the complex organizations
that work. And interestingly, the Governor of Utah pointed out
that bureaucracy, regulation, tradition, and turf are four barriers
that they thought about as they were trying to cooperate, and
I would note that in a way those same four barriers exist within
our institutions, and perhaps greatest of all are tradition and
turf. Speaking as an administrator, of course, I don't think
of bureaucracy as the problem.
Issues. The role of faculty within our institutions apparently
will change. I had been listening to others talk about this,
and the traditional partnership our faculty have in our institutions
and separately with private organizations like the publishers
is the tradition. I think now we're going to have to wonder whether
the faculty and the university together comprise a partnership
to approach information providers like the publishers and others.
I think we also have raised the issue related to faculty time
and effort. These are not elastic commodities, and I think anyone
who's been involved in the development of the use of technology
in education, education in particular, we have all dramatically
underestimated the degree to which our faculty would have to be
deployed in order to make innovative progress.
Third issue: experiments in this area are extremely costly,
and I think as an experimentalist myself from science, I think
we all can accept the notion that not all of these experiments
are going to be successful, and I think the critical thing for
us to be able to do is to learn enough from each experiment to
see them as a worthwhile investment.
After the implementation of the successful experiments, I think
the critical issue is how do we deal with the obsolescence of
the technology that we employ, and we have to plan for renewal.
One comment with which I disagreed by Professor Taylor, though
I was refreshed by many of his comments, is this issue of obsolescence
of tenured faculty and perhaps the approach to abolish tenure
is the one that we should follow. I myself do not believe that.
I think this tradition is an important one for universities,
and the basic problem as I see it is not tenure, but the combination
of tenure and no mandatory retirement. And I think the appropriate
response is a more professional and regular evaluation of all
of the people we have working with us.
Finally, and perhaps the most critical issue that is raised in
connection with innovative approaches to the use of technology
is: how in fact do we redeploy resources? It implies that we
need to get together and decide that we're going to quit doing
some things in order to make progress on another, especially if
we assume that the resource base is not growing rapidly.
Opportunities. I in fact see opportunities in the technological
arena in libraries first. I think this is the heart of the information
marketplace with respect to a university, and what we need is
to provide a setting in which the members of our communities can
contribute and take advantage of these information resources.
Opportunities, baseline, I think are fairly obvious and were
commented upon here: communications, especially electronic mail;
text processing; and access to Internet. These are all what I
would call now basic services that need to be provided. There's
a high degree of expectation in the entire community, especially
the incoming students. These are not unlike telephone services,
and those of you who are involved in residential life situations
know that now every room is equipped with at least a telephone,
and most every institution is moving to a more sophisticated set
of communications tools within the rooms.
I myself see great opportunities in this distance education area.
I'm not convinced of what to do. I'm not sure who our market
would be at Washington University. Would it be our alumni, numbering
100,000? Would it be companies? Would it be the public at large
that seems to have some high expectation of us, especially universities
that are surrounded by urban areas, like the University of Pennsylvania
and many others? So distance education I think is one which I
would look to as a great opportunity. I think the Governor's
presentation was interesting. I'm not sure I see a way for us
to participate in that particular initiative, but I do think distance
education is something that will engage us.
Another area which I think is a real opportunity for every institution
of higher learning is this issue of so-called asynchronous education.
That's one thing that seems to me to be appropriate in this era.
It allows us to do more with our existing facilities and capabilities,
and I think the notion that there are some areas of learning where
different styles-I think the technology makes these things possible
and will provide a more effective experience for our students,
whether they be ones in residence or at home for the summer or
Finally, in terms of opportunities, I was impressed in a way
with the declaration of the so-called intranet services concept
that was developed within I guess Silicon Graphics. I think as
a learning institution we have a responsibility to kind of set
a standard in our communities for providing a setting where technology
is used, and I believe that there are some significant service
opportunities for our entire community which would engage not
only our students, but all of those who work in the institution.
Finally a few words of philosophy. I was taught by one of my
former bosses, now a dean at Rice University, Jim Kinsey, speaking
about the role of advanced instrumentation and technology in our
research, as individuals ourselves not charged with developing
the instrumentation and technology we both agreed that it's best
to be on the hind-front of technology-to begin taking advantage
of it when it's appropriate and cost effective. I do think that
we need to focus on this issue of the balance of thought about
the present versus the future. We're going to be making some
very important decisions on behalf of those who follow, we're
making important investments, and we need to try to make the most
of them. There's a need to balance idealism and pragmatism.
And I was struck when the Governor was talking about the inability
to move rapidly in certain areas which are painfully obvious,
while at the same time you have to fund the prisons and build
the roads and all the other things. As perhaps Judy Rodin and
the other presidents would know, we have many constituencies who
fundamentally want both time and money and space and everything
else that these great institutions offer, and I think we have
to balance the resources and make the prudent investments as we
Finally, I'm an optimist, and someone in this conference indicated
that the greatest problem was perhaps overcoming inertia, dead
wood, or what have you. In fact I see the greatest problem of
people in positions like mine is that we are fundamentally limited
by money. We're not limited by ideas. My biggest problem, frankly,
is being unable to respond to an incredibly large number of interesting
things to do, which I know in absolute terms would improve the
quality of the experience at Washington University. I felt the
same at MIT when I was there, and I know that others in my role
share that frustration. And it's a very difficult problem. Can't
keep everyone happy all of the time. But I think this conference
has been worthwhile in helping to shape some of my own thought
about our future. Thank you.
Farrington: Thank you especially for pointing out that
it's seldom the number of good ideas that's the problem. It's
the fuel to fuel them. I should say, just in case it hangs in
the air, not all experiments in the new technologies are expensive.
The most bold, perhaps, the most leading edge are expensive.
Some of them are remarkably inexpensive. But regardless, probably
the most expensive aspect of any experiment is time-not always
technology, but the time of the people doing the experiment.
And that would argue that in the area of education and the area
of these experiments, we would do best to learn from each other-not
only what works but for goodness sakes what didn't work, so it
doesn't have to not work 40 times. And it can just work once
or twice or maybe three times, and then it can work 30 times.
And that is a major step forward in efficiency. It works, by
the way, in research. Any researcher knows what's going on with
all of his or her competition all over the world and is unlikely
to make mistakes too frequently or he's out or she's out of the
business. But in teaching it doesn't always work that way. We
have this delightful ability to make mistakes over and over and
over again, each pretending we have to invent the world new.