Dismissal of UVA President Sullivan Was Justified
High-quality universities have become too expensive and increasingly inaccessible, because their presidents have failed to recognize and address the challenges and opportunities posed by new technologies.
The Internet, computers and collaborative software offer universities transformative opportunities to leverage resources, reduce costs and reach millions more students -- combining less-expensive online individual and group instruction with residential experiences less than the traditional four years.
Elite institutions like Harvard, MIT and Stanford have experimented with online instruction but not articulated unconventional degree tracks. No doubt conflicted -- how can they sustain their elite status if they become widely accessible -- they behave as monopolists in direct conflict with the public interests.
America's great universities -- elite private institutions and flagship state universities -- have become too selective. Admission standards exceed those necessary to cull high school graduating classes for students best able to profit from what they offer.
Too many well-qualified applicants are turned away, because the U.S. population has grown much more rapidly that the residential model of higher education can accommodate. Monopoly power permits these institutions to unnecessarily run up costs, charge unconscionable tuition and afford faculty cosseted lives, whose teaching and research is becoming increasingly less relevant and responsive to our society's needs.
Students are educated in ways today not much different than 50 or 100 years ago. Thanks to the Internet, communications and access to research materials are quicker and better, but too often curriculum lags breaking changes in the wider world and the students fail to acquire the agility needed to cope when they leave.
At the root are the flawed performance of incrementalist presidents like Teresa Sullivan, who are more administrators than leaders, and the flawed governance models of universities.
Ultimately, boards of trustees hold the reins -- they hire and fire presidents, but those processes sit atop a Platonic democracy -- where decisions both academic and business are made de facto, if not de jure, by committees.