Posts Tagged ‘Northwestern University’

Why Research Universities Merit the “Freedom of the City”

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

What I shared with university colleagues on 5/6/12–


I’ve been thinking of implications of the various [Illinois] pension bills in the light of the larger question of the need for economic development in Chicago and in Illinois.

Yale economist Robert Shiller, the co-originator of the Case-Shiller housing index, recently made a dire prediction, that the housing market may not recover for a generation, meaning “in our lifetimes.”

The implications of this prediction, if correct, are profound. The political game of chasing around and announcing “jobs, jobs, jobs” may shortly be practically useless. Longer-term sources of economic growth besides tax incentive gimmicks to attract and retain businesses will have to be found.

Cities have historically grown and thrived because, as centers of commerce, they were in some sense free economic zones that became magnets of opportunity for both migrants and for entrepreneurs. But our generation of legislators, whether federal, state, and local, have somehow embraced bureaucracy and regulation as a solution, and are locking out opportunity.

By reducing constraints upon UIC’s [University of Illinois at Chicago] growth as an urban, state research university, Chicago and Illinois could become a greater research and educational magnet, drawing more scientists, more businesses, and more students, and rival Boston or LA within two or three generations, if we collectively make the right decisions to unshackle our research universities and institutes and let them grow and thrive. The “freedom of the city” must be extended to the University of Illinois (both UIC and UIUC [University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]) and to partner institutions as research leaders.

In order for such a strategy to succeed, civic leaders who are alumni of NU and U Chicago will have to drop their elite snobbery and allow UIC to thrive as well, since UIC in the long term can “bring the big numbers” of both graduates and researchers to help Chicago and Illinois thrive. But even these three Chicago research universities are not enough to build a “rival Boston” strategy for this region.

That is why legislative action that drives away research talent, and the dollars that senior professors and principal investigators bring with them, is exactly the wrong economic development strategy for Illinois.

As long as state research universities are lumped into legislation covering all matter of non-research institutions, and subject to numerous unintended consequences and unpredictability, the state research university will not thrive to the extent that it could in Illinois. We already see talented colleagues voting on the expected results of such election-year legislation with their feet before the final votes are cast.

Infrastructure alone will not bring Illinois or Chicago back. We have to have a “somewhere” to where the roads and bridges lead. Because real estate will not be an answer for perhaps a generation, state and other research universities do help answer the question of “somewhere.” So let’s not sandbag research universities with bureaucratic disincentives for success, OK?

There are so many encouraging changes taking place at UIC, especially UIC College Prep–there should be dozens more such Chicago and Illinois high schools!–that I’m sad to see some of our colleagues go at this critical moment for UIC.

But we do have a great opportunity, even in these awful times for Illinois, to actually make the right legislative decisions to shape a better future.

Regulatory freedom for the Research Universities of Illinois is part of the answer. The sooner the University of Illinois, including UIUC and UIC, can be set apart with its own legislation freeing the development of research and the attraction and retention of talent from regulatory constraints, the better.

But who will take the lead in spreading this message? Who’s got the guts to do this in an election year?

Much easier to add more bureaucracy and to call it “reform.” Yet where is the economic development–which is what we really need–in that?

So far, the legislature has taken the safe DMV approach–more rules and more roads. But rules and roads leading to what?


Albert Schorsch, III

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


A Pogrom in 1389 Remembered

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Readers of S&SJ know that I admire the work of the medieval scholar Barbara Newman of Northwestern University, known by many for her studies of St. Hildegard of Bingen.

But Prof. Newman’s recent analysis of a document memorializing the 1389 anti-Jewish pogrom, the Passion of the Jews of Prague, is an education in itself.

The philosopher Bernard Lonergan, SJ, noted that scholarship can bring us to the common sense of another time and another place.
This Prof. Newman can do as can few others, with superb storytelling.

Antisemitism has a long and terrible history. It is very present today, sadly among a few heads of governments, notably in Iran.

For centuries, Jews experienced deadly pogroms at the hands of Christians and others, the pogrom of 1389 being particularly vicious.

For this reason, Prof. Newman’s article, The Passion of the Jews of Prague: The Pogrom of 1389 and the Lessons of a Medieval Parody [Church History 81:1 (March 2012), 1–26. © American Society of Church History, 2012. doi:10.1017/S0009640711001752] is worth close attention and study.

I’m looking forward to Prof. Newman’s forthcoming book, Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular against the Sacred.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


Hildegard of Bingen — Soon to be Doctor of the Church

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Some good news for those of us who admire St. Hildegard of Bingen, the “Sybil of the Rhine,” and to those who will now benefit for the first time from her spiritual and artistic legacy: According to usually reliable sources and Rome Reports, St. Hildegard is to be named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI in October, 2012.

For further background, please see the blog by leading Hildegard scholar, Prof. Barbara Newman of Northwestern University. My previous posts on St. Hildegard are here.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


UIC out of the CIC — Good for the State of Illinois? Good for the other States?

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

(An edited version of what I shared with university colleagues on 1/10/11. The University of Illinois at Chicago has been notified that its guest membership in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation will be terminated at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year.)


Some important points about CIC–

CIC guest membership for UIC functions to allow the University of Illinois as a whole to be on a par with other CIC members with medical center campuses, in that the medical center and health sciences of the University of Illinois are thereby included in CIC consortium activities and resources.

Without CIC membership for UIC, the medical center and health sciences of the University of Illinois may not have full access to CIC resources, and the University of Illinois would be in that major sense only a partial member of CIC. Whether the UIC Library of the Health Sciences would have the same panoply of resources without CIC is an important question. It is also questionable whether such a “no CIC for UIC” arrangement would be good for the State of Illinois.

In a given year, UIC’s total grants and contracts expenditures exceed or are on a par with U. Iowa, or U. Chicago, or all campuses of U. Nebraska combined. UIC qualifies as a RU/VH (Research University, Very High Activity; formerly “Research I”) under the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classification system.

The CIC arose during the period 1956-1958 at a time of several football scandals, during which many universities were accused of being “football factories.” CIC’s founding in 1958 can also be viewed as a response to the 1957 R&D challenge of Sputnik. The CIC collaboration positioned the Big 10 schools to better compete with the U. California system, with the Ivy League, and with the surging Texas universities for the funding coming for Big Science after Sputnik. The CIC also provided the Big 10 schools with the ability, like California already had, to develop a leadership pool from among the faculty, not to mention the advantages for libraries, student off-campus scholar studies, etc.

The CIC therefore had at least a dual function, as an academic “fig leaf” to protect against domination by the sports enterprise (a major portion of the economy of a college town), and as a competitive consortium to seek federal and other funding while building intellectual and organizational capacity.

But today it is unclear from the CIC website what the CIC’s mission actually is, other than being the Big 10’s “academic counterpart.”

One might observe that there is a lot of unrealized potential in the CIC. It does appear to need a better defined sense of mission. If this mission were specifically established to advance higher education, research, and thereby economic development in the participating states, then clearly, all RU/VH universities within the participating states would have to be included in order to build the maximum capacity.

In 1984, the CIC actually attempted to take the lead in establishing a regional industrial policy for the Midwest, per an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune on 6/10/84 by Allen Batteau, then acting assistant director of CIC. Shouldn’t the CIC return to an economic development function for its states, especially in this time of economic trial? Don’t we need the _maximum_ research capacity of each state to work collaboratively to do that?

One might propose that CIC membership include those universities in the state systems which have reached status of RU/VH, Research University/Very High Activity, as UIC has. This would rule out U. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but might include Wayne State University, which is an RU/VH as well. Wouldn’t that also be good for the _state_ of Michigan?

If the CIC is a club that is really, deep down, a sports club, then, by “club” logic, out UIC goes, and out stays Wayne State. It is tempting to use other sports analogies, in which the big kids don’t want all their little kid brothers and sisters to play either.

But if research, higher education, extension services, and especially R&D-based economic development within the participating states really do matter to the CIC, then with a better-defined sense of mission, the CIC might give the participating states and universities something of the advantage that the University of California system has (or used to have).

In the present economic development and R&D context, removing UIC from the CIC takes roughly 5% of the research capacity of the CIC off the top, and that doesn’t make any sense from the standpoint of building public goods. Adding Nebraska, Lincoln in doesn’t make up the difference–unless one includes all the Nebraska campuses in the CIC, which did not happen.

If the CIC is about research, academic collaboration, and R&D-based economic development to benefit the participating states, as one might think it should be, then UIC’s CIC membership allows the University of Illinois to fully participate in membership along with other CIC members with medical center campuses, and also benefits the CIC, in that it helps the CIC build maximum capacity. Although this might be temporarily inconvenient perhaps for the _universities_ of Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, and Wisconsin, this would be good for the State of Illinois. And in the long run, wouldn’t it be good for all participating _states_ as well?

So my question is, how is the removal of UIC from the CIC _good_ for the State of Illinois, and in the end for the other participating states? And aren’t these the most important questions we should be asking about CIC?


From my earlier internal campus post on the CIC from 12/24/10–

I can give one example of the benefits of CIC membership for UIC. Several years ago, UIC participated with Northwestern and the University of Chicago in the federal NSF grant to get the Chicago Census Research Data Center set up at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago.

This center gives researchers access to confidential census data under controlled conditions, and has allowed UIC researchers to combine other data sets with confidential census data to embark on significant studies. Due to the complexity of urban and regional problems, access to such data is critical for addressing fundamental questions about public policy and quality of life.

The CIC cooperative networks helped pave the way for the inter-university cooperation leading up to the Chicago RDC, if I’m not mistaken. I recall that Profs. Dick Campbell and Barry Chiswick were among participants in the discussions leading up to the foundation of the Chicago RDC, and that I represented CUPPA. My apologies for not remembering the names of all the many colleagues from several UIC colleges who participated in the discussions back in 2002-3 on this project. (Interesting that the University of Illinois is credited on the Chicago RDC website, since the Chicago campus, UIC, took the initiative on the foundation of the Chicago RDC.)

Here is more background on UIC’s involvement in the foundation of the Chicago RDC.

BTW, not enough of our colleagues at the University know about the resources available at the Chicago RDC, despite UIC’s role in its foundation!

So yes, CIC membership matters big time.


Some background on CIC.

On why Nebraska president thinks CIC matters.

On CIC in general.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved


The White House 10/5/10 Summit on Community Colleges, and a comment on urban public education

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

The White House sponsored a Summit on Community Colleges on 10/5/10, attended by education and community leaders from around the US. Here is the background sheet for the Summit, which was also attended by Melinda French Gates, who simultaneously unveiled the competitive project designed to strengthen community colleges named Completion by Design.

During the closing session of the Summit (see minute 10:40 and following), the prominent business leader Penny Pritzker shared startling figures that 60% of students entering Philadelphia community colleges did not demonstrate sufficient literacy to be placed in classes, and that 90% of students entering Chicago City Colleges needed some form of remediation.

The urban US over the past two decades has seen a number take-overs of public schools by mayors and governors using the “CEO model” of school leadership by non-educators, now with mixed results. In Chicago in the mid-1990s, the public school system (CPS) directly marketed to Catholic school families (we received these mailings in our own home), and designed advanced schools to accommodate the children of Catholic school families after a dramatic capital campaign to build attractive newer schools. Arguably, these former Catholic and other private school children and their social networks helped raise the average test scores of the public school system, and the politicians declared victory. But also arguably, however, the low achievement of the poorest children by and large remained, and can be seen by the high levels of remediation needed by students trying to enter city and community colleges today to gain access to a profession.

I’m looking for a serious scientific study of public school achievement that separates out the addition of Catholic and private school families statistically to measure whether the poorest of the poor actually approved their academic achievement in urban public schools since the politician-led urban school reforms beginning in the 1990s. Please see the following account of a 2009 Northwestern University study, which apparently did not take into account the full impact of transfer of Catholic students into the public school system over the past two decades, and evidently used the Catholic schools as a control group. Here’s the link for the full Northwestern study, which assumes that the transfers of Catholic students to public schools was small after 2002, when in fact the exodus of Catholic students to public schools in certain urban school districts had begun much earlier.

Back on June 10, 2001, the Chicago Sun-Times published my letter on the departure of Paul Vallas as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, in which I wrote in part:

“Having taken the schools near the limit of improvements that can be based upon better facilities, Vallas showed a wisdom gained from experience in testing educational fads to their limits as well. CPS has ‘hit the wall’ in improvements, not because of Vallas, but because of the sad fact that children who do not read daily in their first three years of life face difficult barriers even state-of-the-art schools can’t easily improve.

Educational bureaucracies are in a league beyond that of park districts and libraries and mayor’s offices. Such leadership is not interchangeable. Once you fix the school buildings, only determined, incremental, decades-long bureaucratic trench warfare based upon knowledge of the trenches will produce improvements. History has shown that great advances in education are accomplished by those who spend the greater part of their careers at the task. Imagine where the universities of Chicago or Notre Dame would be with the presidencies of William Rainey Harper or the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh cut in half. Hesburgh talked a lot about the cemeteries being filled with indispensable people, but that was blarney. He kept the job for decades because his contributions were critical, and he knew it.

The Chicago Public Schools will not be advanced significantly at this point by bright new ideas brought back to Chicago from the last city that the mayor or his aides just visited. Vallas has learned enough to serve as the reality principle against rounds of educational gimmicks, and now this reality principle is about to go.”

For a sober series of scientific discussions on how to improve human capital policies to address inequality in our society, see Inequality in America:What Role for Human Capital Policies? edited by Nobel Prize economist James J. Heckman, Alan B. Krueger, and Benjamin M. Friedman.

Please see my earlier blog post on James J. Heckman, which is also pertinent to this topic.

Here’s an amazing and related statistic from Timothy Shanahan, Professor of Urban Education and Director of the Center for Literacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, on a study that showed the lag between children from low-income families and middle-class children when they start school, as quoted in the Sept. 29 Irish Times:

“One of the things they found was that the average middle-class first grader [aged five or six] had been read to for more than 1,200 hours. There were children in a lot of low-income families who would have been only read to 25 hours in their entire life. Think about that difference in terms of the amount of language experience.”

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved