… in the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the most charitable description of what’s been going on at the clubby University of Minnesota medical school would be “bizarre.”
Monday, November 5, 2007
Inspiring Words at the University of Minnesota from OurProvost?
OurProvost (aka E. Thomas Sullivan or ET) has one of his hortatory pieces in the Minnesota Daily.
I assume that he wrote it, but it could easily be the product of the marketing firm responsible for Driven To Discover.
The topic is imagination and its importance at great universities. This is a straw-man topic that university administrators use as pontification opportunities. It is unlikely to generate any argument, let alone an actual intellectual exchange or, to use adminspeak, conversation.
The piece sounds like what a candidate for the presidency of a research university might say or write. It is necessary for an administrator to accumulate a portfolio of these feel good pieces, even if they are in the Minnesota Daily rather than the Washington Post or the Chronicle of Higher Education or other sand boxes where the big girls and boys play (e.g. Mark Yudof).
OurProvost goes through the usual drill. He mentions Einstein, Hurwicz, Phillips, Dewey, MacNeice, and Atwood. This is a signal to us that he is a well-read and educated man, even though he is a lawyer, and a serial ex-LawSchoolDean. Unfortunately the piece is marred by an irritating overuse of quotation marks. For example: "imaginative leaps," "accidents," and "primary function." There is an amusing blog devoted to poking fun at this practice: The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.
Also, included in the piece is an ode to tenure. This is a signal to faculty that OurProvost is OK, we (the faculty) are OK, and not to worry. Ten years after the fact the University of Minnesota administration is still trying to recover from collateral damage due to the tenure wars. Thus a genuflection to tenure is de rigueur.
The piece ends with the type of rhetorical question that professional politicians use. Are motherhood and apple pie good things? Am I being too enthusiastic about these issues? I truly value your opinion on these matters...
OurProvost asks: "Am I overvaluing the value and role of the imagination in universities?"
Naw, I don't think so...
By the way, to see this genre done right consult the Harvard presidential inaugural address of the historian Drew Gilpin Faust entitled "Ambitious Imaginings."
at 1:58 AM