Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wendell Berry and the question of what a land-grant university should be

Wendell Berry has raised an important question about what a land-grant university is and how some universities are losing sight of their purposes, especially today. The desire to be elite research institutions, especially in the STEM fields, raises concerns about what universities are focusing on today. This is true especially in a time when there is considerable need on the part of communities outside of the realm of the hard sciences.

This issue with Berry and his desire to reconsider his relationship with the University of Kentucky should raise serious flags for the university, but also for others who only focus on STEM.

To quote the Lexington Herald Leader, "Berry, 75, said UK's push to become a "Top 20" research university has caused it to stray from its land-grant university obligation to address Kentucky's problems.

"The coal business came up, and that for me was just the last straw," Berry said Tuesday. "I don't think the University of Kentucky can be so ostentatiously friendly to the coal industry ... and still be a friend to me and the interests for which I have stood for the last 45 years. ... If they love the coal industry that much, I have to cancel my friendship."

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