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Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2008

IU Bloomington provost affirms importance of research at public universities

Jan. 9, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Karen Hanson, the provost and executive vice president of Indiana University Bloomington, has joined academic leaders of other Big Ten institutions in affirming the importance of maintaining ambitious research programs at public research universities.

In a letter to BusinessWeek, the provosts respond to Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, who was quoted in the magazine as suggesting that universities lacking Ivy League endowments should back off from "ambitious" scientific research and focus instead on social science and humanities.

"As the senior academic leaders of 11 public research universities, we emphatically reject that notion," the provosts write. "Collectively, our institutions educate more than 380,000 students, produce one in every eight American Ph.D.s and conduct more than $2.5 billion worth of research every year."

The letter was signed by provosts of the 10 public Big Ten universities and the University of Illinois-Chicago. It can be seen on the Web at channel_opinion.

Faust was quoted in a Dec. 10, 2007, BusinessWeek article titled "The Dangerous Wealth of the Ivy League," which reported that higher-education leaders were concerned about a race for survival among universities.

The provosts write that public universities have for the past quarter century been "in the grip of a funding vise," constrained by tight state budgets, growing enrollment and pressure to hold the line on tuition. The situation, they say, threatens to upset the public-private balance that is the core of America's status as world leader in higher education.

"If we are to continue the extraordinary process of discovery and creativity that is the hallmark of our great research universities," they write, "we must be willing to provide the support our public institutions need to sustain their educational and scientific excellence. The ultimate stakeholder is the nation. And the stakes are high."