Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mission Statement

The following is a very rough sketch of a mission statement. Please, provide some feedback on this or suggest some alternate statements. The ideas and the wording are both completely open to change.

"Founded in the belief that the privatization of the University threatens both its intellectual caliber and its civic mission, that a University modeled on a “marketplace of ideas” inevitably rewards only those ideas that sell and serves only those customers who can afford them, [Organization X] exists to fight the corporatization of the University of Minnesota. By strengthening the campus community and by building ties to the surrounding community, it aims to ensure that the University upholds its traditional land-grant mission of serving the public."

12 comments:

Steven K said...

A few more things to think about. This is (I think) what it says on Northrop:
"Founded in faith that men are ennobled by understanding. Dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth. Devoted to the instruction of youth and the welfare of the state."

This is the U of M's current mission statement:
"The University of Minnesota, founded in the belief that all people are enriched by understanding, is dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth; to the sharing of this knowledge through education for a diverse community; and to the application of this knowledge to benefit the people of the state, the nation, and the world. The University's mission, carried out on multiple campuses and throughout the state, is threefold:

Research and Discovery
Generate and preserve knowledge, understanding, and creativity by conducting high-quality research, scholarship, and artistic activity that benefit students, scholars, and communities across the state, the nation, and the world.

Teaching and Learning
Share that knowledge, understanding, and creativity by providing a broad range of educational programs in a strong and diverse community of learners and teachers, and prepare graduate, professional, and undergraduate students, as well as non-degree-seeking students interested in continuing education and lifelong learning, for active roles in a multiracial and multicultural world.

Outreach and Public Service
Extend, apply, and exchange knowledge between the University and society by applying scholarly expertise to community problems, by helping organizations and individuals respond to their changing environments, and by making the knowledge and resources created and preserved at the University accessible to the citizens of the state, the nation, and the world.

In all of its activities, the University strives to sustain an open exchange of ideas in an environment that embodies the values of academic freedom, responsibility, integrity, and cooperation; that provides an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance; that assists individuals, institutions, and communities in responding to a continuously changing world; that is conscious of and responsive to the needs of the many communities it is committed to serving; that creates and supports partnerships within the University, with other educational systems and institutions, and with communities to achieve common goals; and that inspires, sets high expectations for, and empowers individuals within its community."

eliumn said...

Steven, awesome job of starting the discussion on the mission statement!

I like what you have so far. One thing jumped out at me, and I think it's something that we should think about a bit: the issue of "corporatization" of the university. What does this mean? Is this something that we want to oppose necessarily? Or is the corporatization of the university something that we should accept and then try to shape it in a progressive way that keeps in line with the public mission? I read an article earlier this summer that makes the latter argument: e.g., "Insofar as the university is already a business, the question is not how to keep it from becoming one but rather: How’s it going to be run in the future? For what reasons? For the substantial benefit of what populations inside and outside the university
community? And according to what labor protocols?" Here's a link to this article if you want to read it: "The Associate Provost in the Gray Flannel Suit" by Jeffrey T. Nealon. Here's the abstract: "This article argues that if leftists want to take the university back from corporate forces, perhaps we should take our inspiration not from cultural conservatives but from economic ones, who'd teach us to "take over" higher education by severely trimming and streamlining the administrative ranks of middle management, and disgorging that excess cash back into the "core business" of education and research." -> This is a good argument for why we should "downsize" Bruininks and the rest of the overpaid administrative class.

jonneke said...

sounds good so far. my only reservation the thing about the market place of ideas: its is a bit convoluted for such a short statement. cheers mate.

chris said...

"Founded in the belief that the current model of corporatization at the University threatens both its intellectual caliber and its civic mission by rewarding only those ideas which sell and serving only those customers who can afford them. [Organization X] exists to inform and strengthen the campus community while fortifying ties in the surrounding community, to ensure that the University upholds its traditional land-grant mission to serve the public."

While agreeing with eli about 'a marketplace of ideas' one initially takes issue with the fault of 'rewarding ideas that sell'; not personally mind you, but conversationally. Though this may also pave way for a discussion upon what a public university is in 21st century economic arena - as that is the issue which the Top3/strategic repositioning aspiration claims to conclude...?

thankyou
chris

Steven K said...

Eli,
I think you're right that taking out middle level management really is a more realistic way of dealing w/ the future of the U (do we really think we'll be able to stem the privitization of the public sphere???) that still doesn't reflect the rhetoric we've speaking in the last few weeks. I'm not sure what to do about this.

jonneke and Chris, I do think that first sentence is a bit wordy. I'm fishing around for a quick way to state one of the central complaints I've been hearing from faculty: that privitization of the U affects intellectual freedom in that some disciplines wind up being marginalized. (This is really visible in terms of who gets grant money and in terms scientific rhetoric of Driven to Discover.)

Steven K said...

A possible revision:
[Organization X] is founded in the belief that the privatization of the University threatens both its intellectual caliber and its civic mission. By strengthening the campus community and by building ties to the surrounding community, we aim to ensure that the University upholds its traditional land-grant mission of serving the public.

I've killed the "marketplace of ideas", and turned "it aims" into "we aim". Is that shift from "it" to "we" appropriate? The damn thing still seems too wordy to me.

APason said...

I liked the revised version (the last there). Concurred that Marketplace of Ideas is a little unecessary. Apart from the mission statement but to the question of "corporatization"--there are two ways about this:
1. We do not want corporatization of "education" or the actual learning/research that takes place. Corporatization of the "business part" (ie paying wages, balancing budget, etc.) is probably not problematic--IF the university is run as an ethical business (it is on this point that we can turn the corporate rhetoric BACK onto the admin to say they are running a bad business).

In that vein, I concur with Eli to an extent that playing with "corporatization" (not being directly opposed) might be a strategic point. BUT, as for mission statement, perhaps PRIVATIZATION over CORPORATIZATION is the key statement?

Steven K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven K said...

Ok, here is a statement that I've revised in response to comments made at the meeting today:

"The Public University Network believes in an open University. We are concerned that the privatization of the University of Minnesota threatens both its intellectual and civic mission. By strengthening the campus community and by building ties to the surrounding community, we aim to ensure that the University upholds its traditional land-grant mission of serving society."

There was some question about whether this statement should include a comment about increased access to the U; I can include this, but I think it's covered under "serving society." I've also added the phrase "open University" which is a bit more controversial, but we were talking about an "open U" today, and I needed an alternative in the first sentence to "public U." Comments please.

eliumn said...

- I like the addition of "open" in the first sentence (maybe you want to say "open, public university"?). And maybe change "believes in" to "strives for"?
- should we add "Action" to our name?
- pluralize "mission"?
- Do we want to distinguish between campus community and surrounding community? -> Maybe instead, we should say: "By building ties and enhancing access across the socio-economic hierarchies and material barriers that divide our community, on- and off-campus,..."

So, my suggested version would read...
"The Public University Action Network strives for an open, public University. We are concerned that the privatization of the University of Minnesota threatens both its intellectual and civic missions. By building ties and enhancing access across the socio-economic hierarchies and material barriers that divide our community, on- and off-campus, we aim to ensure that the University upholds its traditional land-grant mission of serving society."

Elissa said...

I wasn't able to attend the meetings, so I apologize if you've already discussed and discarded this suggestion.

The descriptors "open" and "public" in the first line of the mission statement seem to align this group's idea of the university with U of M's idea as outlined in its mission statement (quoted by Steven K. above). Might it be useful to qualify those terms further, to demonstrate opposition to or at least difference from the status quo? Right now the mission statement seems largely to reproduce the U's, especially under its "Outreach and Public Service" section, with the somewhat ambiguous buzzword "privatization" marking the main departure.

My initial thought is that by defining what "public" and "private" mean to this group, the mission statement could better articulate our goals. By a "public" university, do we mean one whose mechanisms are transparent and visible to all segments of the community? Or one to which all comers have access, meaning anyone could participate in classes or clubs? Or simply one controlled solely by state/government employees who represent democratic interests, rather than by for-profit subcontractors? Or some combination of those and other factors? Similarly, by "privatization" of the university, are we referring to its dominance by a single socioeconomic and racial group, and its divorce from the "general public's" concerns? To its profit motive? To a narrowing of the entities to which it's accountable (state, businesses, individual citizens)? To something else entirely?

I know there's already concern about the mission statement's wordiness. But it seems worthwhile to make it precise and meaningful, since it'll be our first contact point in dealings with other people and groups.

Elissa said...

I wasn't able to attend the meetings, so I apologize if you've already discussed and discarded this suggestion.

The descriptors "open" and "public" in the first line of the mission statement seem to align this group's idea of the university with U of M's idea as outlined in its mission statement (quoted by Steven K. above). Might it be useful to qualify those terms further, to demonstrate opposition to or at least difference from the status quo? Right now the mission statement seems largely to reproduce the U's, especially under its "Outreach and Public Service" section, with the somewhat ambiguous buzzword "privatization" marking the main departure.

My initial thought is that by defining what "public" and "private" mean to this group, the mission statement could better articulate our goals. By a "public" university, do we mean one whose mechanisms are transparent and visible to all segments of the community? Or one to which all comers have access, meaning anyone could participate in classes or clubs? Or simply one controlled solely by state/government employees who represent democratic interests, rather than by for-profit subcontractors? Or some combination of those and other factors? Similarly, by "privatization" of the university, are we referring to its dominance by a single socioeconomic and racial group, and its divorce from the "general public's" concerns? To its profit motive? To a narrowing of the entities to which it's accountable (state, businesses, individual citizens)? To something else entirely?

I know there's already concern about the mission statement's wordiness. But it seems worthwhile to make it precise and meaningful, since it'll be our first contact point in dealings with other people and groups.