How land-grants have neglected mission


University of Minnesota gadfly professor Bill Gleason had a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday about how he thinks the U is neglecting its mission as a land-grant university by trying to become a premier research institution.

The mission of a land-grant institution “is to concentrate on the teaching of agriculture, science, and engineering,” according to the language of the federal Morrill Acts that founded them, he writes.

He says that means “they have a special obligation to provide high-quality education for citizens of their home state, as well as to focus attention on the economic development and social welfare of that state.”

Pursuing the pure research goal, however, has caused the U and other land-grant institutions to undervalue agricultural and applied research that are part of their mandate. He points to a recent Wall Street Journal survey showing that corporate recruiters love scouting large public universities, and said the U should consider being tops among those.

In short, he writes:

Land-grant universities should get back to the business of doing what they do best­—in particular, teaching at a level sufficient to prepare people in their states to be competitive in the job market—and worry less about becoming world-class public research institutions.