Let's evaluate the purpose of a university

To the editor:

Two recent university-related events have given me pause to consider the way higher education is headed.

The first one is the selection as president of the University of Iowa of a businessman with minimal qualifications to lead a university. Some years ago in a discussion of the basic nature of universities, my fellow class members and the professor agreed that the purpose of a university is the preservation and encouragement of the highest intellectual pursuits in liberal and fine arts, which are pursued in several colleges within the university. Having a well-trained staff for the business world is important and should be encouraged. But we agreed that business colleges belong in a separate school.

The second event was a discussion on NPR by sports people about the state of university sports teams. One strong supporter of athletics stated that the universities should admit that they no longer provide athletic competition for university scholars as they claim, but are now training grounds for professional athletes. He suggested that athletic teams should be separated from the universities and follow their present move toward pro athletics, leaving universities to sponsor intramural activities and provide education in physical development. Because the athletic sports department claims it is financially self-sufficient, this should cause no hardship for teams.

These two recent experiences have caused me to ask if now is a prime time to re-evaluate the real purpose of a university.

Elizabeth A. Belden


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