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June 10, 1988 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1988-06-10

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OPINION
AV" - The Michigan Daily - Friday, June 10, 1988
Duderstadt should re-order priorities
Sdgn'Focus on students

Unsigned editorials represent the majority views of the Daily's
Editorial Board. Cartoons and signed editorials do not
necessarily reflect the Daily's opinion.
Shady dealings

T HE REGENTS chose James
Duderstadt to become the next
president of the University
through a highly dubious se-
lection process. Students and
faculty had very little input
into the decision, which was
probably why a more pro-
gressive person wasn't given
the job. The choice of Duder-
stadt reflects the regents' em-
phasis on financial concerns
and research over students
needs.
The regents have made clear
their priorities. Rather than
abiding by their "commitment
to excellence" rhetoric, they
seemed to have changed their
slogan to "commitment to
mediocrity." Confronting the
problems of institutional rac-
ism and the polarization bet-
ween students and the ad-
ministration should be the
priority of the new president.
Duderstadt seems better
equipped to continue focus-
ing on finances, as he did as
Engineering dean. He has also
been criticized by faculty
members as authoritarian - a
dangerous quality on this fac-
tionalized campus. A candi-
date from outside the Univer-
sity could have perhaps of-
fered a fresher perspective.
Of the three finalists for the
job, Dr. Walter Massey, of
the University of Chicago, is
Black, and Dr. Vartan Grego-
rian, head of the New York
Public Library. system, is
Middle-Eastern. Dr. Grego-
rian flatly rejected the regents'
offer. It should be noted that
there were no women final-
ists.
The regents should have
sought out a larger number of
qualified minorities and
women for the post so that the
University would not have to
settle for Duderstadt.
One would think extremely

qualified candidates would be
"flocking" to Ann Arbor to
head the most prestigious
public university on this side
of the San Andreas Fault.
Perhaps many qualified peo-
ple were scared away by the
negative publicity generated
by the regents and
administration.
The regents have been
sued by the Ann Arbor News
and other papers for their vi-
olation of the Open Meeting
Act in the selection process.
Three regents at a time met
with each candidate in order to
keep their meetings secret.
Therefore, students and fac-
ulty had no way of knowing
who was under consideration.
The student advisory com-
mittee did not endorse Duder-
stadt; in fact, sources say
Duderstadt was ranked the
lowest of 16 finalists in some
evaluations. This raises ques-
tions about how many quali-
fied applicants were passed up
,in favor of Duderstadt. The
regents conveniently escape
being held accountable for
overlooking such candidates
because of their decision to
hold their meetings in private.
The choice of Duderstadt
reflects the regents' insensi-
tivity to the demands of stu-
dents and a myopic concern
for their own agenda. Besides
ignoring student input, Dud-
erstadt is not uniquely quali-
fied to address the specific
concerns of students such as
institutional racism, skyrock-
eting tuition, and ending mili-
tary research. Someone who
is known for cooperating with
students and being more
aware of their needs would
have been more welcomed.

FROM HIS PAST perfor-
mances at the University, it
appears that James Duderstadt
is a serious, hard-working
bottom-liner who has had a
questionably successful reign
as Engineering professor,
Dean of the College of En-
gineering, Provost and Vice
President for Academic Aff-
airs, and Interim President.
Duderstadt's career at the
University does not indicate a
president highly concerned
with student needs or aware
of how to meet current prob-
lems at the University.
As a nuclear physicist who
came to the University in
1969, Duderstadt demon-
strated his intellectual prowess
and mastery of his field.
However, his choices of
"clients" was not as illustri-
ous. In 1982, for example,
Duderstadt - already Dean-
was doing laser-weapons re-
search for the Air Force.
Although Duderstadt denied
any knowledge of the purpose
for his work, saying,
"There's no particular
weapons system that I'm
aware of," the Air Force itself
proudly boasted of the space
laser research the Dean was
conducting. This effort was
challenged by observers in the
Engineering department, who
argued that Duderstadt's work
violated University guidelines
governing weapons research
on campus.
Duderstadt has additionally
said that contributing to the
"national defense" should be a
"major goal" of the Univer-
sity. Placing military research
on the top of his priorities
This implies his priorities
contradict focusing on student
needs and the call to end mili-
tary research on campus.
As Dean of Engineering,
Duderstadt worked hard to
revive a faltering department,
and encouraged his faculty to
push their limits in lab work
and research. Although Dud-
erstadt was successful in
terms of generating money
and prestige for Engineering,
one must consider where the
money he raised came from-
$20 million from sponsored

research and $34 million from
the University General Fund(
a $23 million increase which
was raised by hiking tuition).
In 1986, Duderstadt was
promoted to the Vice-Presi-
dency for Academic Affairs
and Provost, urged on by
then-president Harold
Shapiro. As VP, Duderstadt's
primary responsibility was
handling the University's
budget, and lobbying the state
of Michigan and private con-
tributors for funding. How-
ever, Duderstadt has failed in
his "re-order(ing) of the
state s priorities." Primarily
due to decreased state fund-
ing, student tuition costs have
risen by over 20 percent since
Duderstadt took over as
Provost (including the pro-
jected hike for this year), and
it is extremely doubtful that
the University has given stu-
dents a better product for their
additional moneys.
From January to March,
1987, Duderstadt filled in as
Interim President for Shapiro
during the latter's sabbatical.
The biggest event during his
short tenure was Duderstadt's
"million dollar" Undergradu-
ate Initiatives Fund, which
allowed student organizations
to recommend allocations for
improving student life. While
this was certainly an ad-
mirable program, the million
dollar initiative has produced
no tangible results on a cam-
pus which is still plagued by
overcrowding in the dormito-
ries and classrooms, racial
unrest, and an administration
which seems hostile to student
input.
Despite the outbreak of
racist incidents on campus
during his brief reign, the
Fund was the only decisive
action Duderstadt took to im-
prove the atmosphere on
campus.
In fact, there is little indica-
tion that Duderstadt places
students high on his list of
priorities for anything. As a
professor, he focused primar-
ily on research. As Dean, he
advocated improving the
breadth of engineering stu-
dents' education, but left the
responsibility to LSA. As

Provost, students have re-
ceived huge tuition increases.
As Interim President, Dud-
erstadt did little to help ease
campus tensions. Though he
proved to be accessible to
students during his tenure as
Interim Chief, Duderstadt has
been criticized often as a poor
listener, especially to stu-
dents.
Another legitimate com-
plaint about Duderstadt's ca-
reer at the University is his
poor record of hiring women
and minorities. The 1987-88
Affirmative Action Report for
the University says "the num-
ber and percent of females,
minorities, and Blacks have
not kept pace" in hirings for
assistant professors. Since
1983-4, Black faculty hirings
have gone up a dismal .6 per-
cent. Women only comprise
11.4 percent of all faculty.
The Engineering Depart-
ment has always been pitiful
with regards to its male-
dominated faculty, and though
Duderstadt attracted over 100
new engineering faculty, in-
cluding some women, he left
the department still weak in
this regard. As Provost, Dud-
erstadt oversaw the Office of
Minority Affairs, and has- to
answer for the poor recruit-
ment and retention of minori-
ties and women in the faculty
and student populations.
On the one hand, Duder-
stadt's intelligence and work
ethic cannot be questioned.
There is no indication that he
is particularly reactionary or
anti-student. However, there
is also no indication he is pro-
student, either, and his em-
phasis on the bottom line is
hardly the fundamental
principle on which a univer-
sity president should be mak-
ing his/her decisions.
Duderstadt's proponence of
military research and his
questionable record with re-
gards to minority and women
hirings and retention, along
with his finances-first out-
look, need to be altered for
Duderstadt to be successful as
president..

4

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