Appeared in: Volume 10, Number 1
Published on: August 22, 2014
A College President Speaks

Gerhard Casper’s memoir focuses on the highest principle of higher education: academic freedom.

William M. Chace is the former president of Wesleyan University and of Emory University.
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  • FriendlyGoat

    This shouldn’t be that hard. There is no such thing as a “pure meritocracy” and no one should be pretending there is. Society expects its schools, including colleges, to raise up all kinds of students for all kinds of roles in society. You could maybe hold out a few high-brow institutions for the game of rejecting or flunking out 99% of all comers, but the average college has a much broader mission.

  • Anthony

    Universities represent an entire cultural and social order – a system to perpetuate an established corporate order. Moreover, it is under this framework university presidents work. As a predominant social institution, universities (University of Chicago/Stanford) are influential purveyors of values, ideologies, and patterns of cultural acceptance. The axiom “the job is more difficult than important” is apropos. Universities (generally) implicitly or explicitly are agencies of socialization into orthodoxy despite presidents’ inclination towards academic freedom. Above all and while sometimes portrayed as being above worldly partisan interests, universities perform a wide range of services essential to furtherance of status quo. To this end, how much can an individual university president do within systemic capture? To get along in one’s career, one learns to go along with things as they are and avoid the espousal of views that conflict with the dominant economic interests of one’s profession, institution, and society while promoting virtue of “Academic Freedom” (we are often admonished to think for ourselves but the worst forms of tyranny are those so subtle, so deeply ingrained, so thoroughly controlling as not even to be consciously experienced).

  • kctaz

    In “The University in a Political Context”, the most vigorous speech in the book, he notes with mounting anger the costs—fiscal, psychological, and managerial—to Stanford as it is forced to respond to both state and Federal regulations about, among other things, animal research, human subjects, hazardous waste and contagious diseases. Accommodating itself to such regulations adds to the cost of doing business, but, more importantly, it distracts hundreds of people, including the university president, from focusing on what Casper rightly sees as essential matters: “What kind of institution are we? What should we be? What should we do? How should we do it?”


    Yet, almost every University now teaches that the Government is the answer, benign and wonderful and that the profit motive and business is evil. Odd that he chaffs under the restrictions the Government imposes on him yet fails to understand or communicate to the students the damage done to the general public and the economy by those same regulations, rules and mandates.

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