President Pusey yesterday reported for the first time on the Carnegie study of the "new, complicated, imperfect, but incalculably significant--and promising-relation" between the federal government and universities.
Speaking before the American Council on Education in Chicago, Pusey said that the central problem raised by this new relationship, which has developed during the past two decades "almost without direction," is to find some more considerable middle ground between the present "largely mission-oriented federal programs on the one hand and an unwanted and dangerous program of general federal support for higher education on the other."
The Carnegie study combines separate reports by 26 colleges and universities of varying sizes and kinds on their own experiences with the federal government during the academic year 1959-60. Pusey was chairman of an advisory committee of university presidents which guided the two-man staff conducting the Carnegie study.
Without exception, Pusey said, the heads of all 26 institutions have found their involvement with the federal government "a good thing." Yet at the same time "there is another side to the story," and the study warned of the dangers involved in federal aid, which today operates not only as a support for research but also as a major source of operating revenue.
Pusey stated that the basic worry facing universities results from the government's concentration of funds in only these areas of inquiry in which "this or that agency [has] a definite and specific mission of its own to perform." Thus while the research investigator "will continue in theory to have complete freedom of choice about what he will study, in fact his freedom of choice will be confined" to areas where governmental agencies have for their own reasons made money available.
At present, said Pusey, this may be merely a fancied danger, but he warned that "over a period of years, in their power to grant or withhold funds, [such agencies] are likely to have much to say about the direction research is to follow, whereas many educational leaders continue to believe this kind of decision had best be left to the colleges and universities themselves."
A related difficulty, Pusey noted, is that the encouragement of research within a university will make it increasingly difficult for a faculty to show proper concern for the instruction of undergraduates. "Again it is too early to say this has happened, but there is widespread fear that it may happen."
The "huge business" which universities do with the government--involving more than a billion dollars for research and development a year--requires an annoying amount of administrative work. Pusey called "especially vexing" the frequent and formidable demands made on the time of valuable research professors to prepare applications for support, to administer the funds allocated, and to make elaborate reports on the uses to which the funds have been put.
In view of the possible dangers raised by the increasing role of government in the affairs of universities, the Carnegie report concludes with a series of question, whose answers might lead to a "perfection of the relation" between government and education institutions:
*Basically and most important, will the new and growing association with government strengthen or weaken our educational institutions in their ability to perform their essential work? Will future government regulatory policies adequately recognize the true nature of educational institutions? Or will they simply treat our colleges and universities as service agencies in particular situations?
* Will government recognize that education is as properly a matter for national concern as are defense, health, and technical and economic advance?
* Will the government's programs make proper allowance for basic as well as for applied research? And for teaching?
* Will Government recognize how important it is that an institution of higher learning strive to advance simultaneously and consistently along a broad front of academic interests rather than be content to make occasional spurts ahead in some limited area of immediate concern? Will leaders of government actively support, not merely pay lip service to the idea that the social studies and the humanities are also relevant in considerations of national strength?
* Will programs of the government affecting higher education show proper care not to weaken the bastions against political interference which educational leaders have been slowly building through centuries?
* Will government programs be adequately sensitive to the fact that good education and good research require steadfast concern for standards of excellence, and that neither will be achieved if it becomes a guiding aim of government programs to keep everyone happy and to avoid hard choices?
*From the other side, will colleges and universities recognize that they have to change to meet new needs? Will they get themselves organized to work cooperatively with agencies of government, ceasing to go their own separate ways and to contend selfishly among themselves?
* Will they also concede that they have an obligation to work with government not only to advance knowledge but also to extend educational opportunity