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American higher education needs to recruit more women and minorities for leadership positions in order to provide role models for an increasingly diverse student body, a group of prominent educators told an audience of about 100 in Radcliffe's Agassiz Theatre yesterday afternoon.
The symposium, entitled "Changing Concepts of Leadership in Higher Education," was held in honor of Linda S. Wilson's official inauguration yesterday as Radcliffe's seventh president.
"We need leaders who understand the importance of minorities, the social deficit in America, the loss of prominence in world economics, and the importance of the public service sector," said Robert H. Atwell, the president of the American Council on Education.
Atwell said that American higher education officials tend to pay too much attention to "money raised, buildings built, SAT scores recruited, and stellar faculty stolen from sister universities. Not enough attention is paid to minorities, other lower levels of education and public service."
Other panel members stressed that universities must make progress in hiring minority and women faculty members in order to change the learning environment for students.
"Faculty determine who is to teach, what is to be taught and who is to be taught," said Professor Sheila E. Widnall of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "That leaves little else than handing out parking stickers."
Although colleges have called for "a wider division among ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic lines, the call also [should be] for a better atmosphere and faculty to nurture and support this student diversity," Widnall said.
President Harold T. Shapiro of Princeton University said that education officials need to set firm goals to strengthen the university system. Among the chief problems currently facing higher education are the high dropout rate among high school students and the failure of college curricula to address the needs of women and minorities.
Solving these problems requires leaders with "a new sense of responsibility to define goals in higher education," Shapiro said.
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