Volume 11, No. 2 Duke University October 1999
Rojstaczer on Grants
Paletz on Notes on the Internet
Chafe, Address to ASC Faculty
Harkins, Predictions from Archives
Poet's Corner: Robert Frost
Possum (Passim): Random Readings
Parrot's Noble Thinking
Ferret: Presidential Hot Dogs
EdNote: As space permits, we plan to present excerpts from Gone for Good: Tales of University Life After the Golden Age, by Stuart Rojstaczer, copyright 1999 by Oxford University Press. Published by arrangement with Oxford University Press, New York.
In my field of study and for most of those in the nonmedical sciences, NSF is the pre-eminent funding source for research.For my first NSF proposal, I decided to analyze data that I had collected in my previous job and propose to extend the work. I began to write this proposal a month before the NSF deadline, thinking that it would take me at most two weeks to pound it out.
But two weeks came and went with me working day and night, and I wasn't close to being finished. So I started working even longer hours. Finally, after three weeks, it looked like I was making real progress. I handed in a draft of my proposal to the grants accounting office at the university for approval three days before the deadline. I continued to hone the manuscript until the final day before the deadline.
At 4:00 P.M. on May 31, I finished the proposal and then made a stupid decision. Instead of going to a copy shop to make the required twenty copies of my proposal (NSF is run by scientists, but it is a classic government bureaucracy, hence the need for twenty copies), I decided to use the departmental copy machine. Like almost all copy machines at my university, it was a no name brand prone to misfeeds and failure. It took me two hours to make the copies. But I still wasn't too worried. In California, where I had lived previously, Federal Express accepted packages for next day delivery until 8:00 P.M. But when I called their office in Durham at 6:00 P.M., they had already closed. Other overnight mail services were closed as well. I still hadn't adapted to life in a small city.
I was upset about Federal Express being closed, but mostly I was upset at myself for my poor planning and decision making. My wife was out of town for the week. I picked up my daughter at a friend's house and went home and cooked dinner for both of us.I thought about what could be done and decided that I should drive the proposal to NSF. The next day, in my car, I felt somewhat better. I was making good time. In two hours, I neared the city of Richmond, capital of Virginia, and former capital of the Confederacy. Its famous native sons included Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Ashe. It looked like a city of reasonable size with a well-defined downtown. If the South had won the Civil War, I thought, I would be submitting my proposal here and my drive would be over. It was the first time in my life that I wished that the Confederacy had been victorious.
I continued for another two hours until, after fumbling around the streets of Washington, D.C. for awhile, I double-parked in front of the headquarters of NSF. At the time, NSF was located in the heart of D.C., housed in a nondescript brick building constructed in the fifties or sixties. There are many grand buildings in Washington, D.C., but this wasn't one of them. I walked into the building with a box holding the twenty copies of the proposal and asked a clerk where I should drop it off. He told me where the mail room was located. Walking into the mail room, all of my energy vanished.The sight was depressing and overwhelming. I was in a large, dark gray room devoid of any people, filled with stacks of proposals that had arrived that day. The piles formed hills some six feet high. I placed my proposal near the top of one of them and walked back to my car.
Driving home, I thought that the mounds of proposals that I had seen looked a little like the pyramids of Giza and it seemed to me that this proposal process was a giant pyramid scheme. Many proposals were written, but very few received funding. What were the chances of mine being picked from all of those proposals?
EdNote: Stuart Rojstaczer, the Director of the Center for Hydrologic Science and an Associate Professor of Hydrology, can be reached by email at http://www.duke.edu/~stuart or at email@example.com
An organization named Versity.com has been paying someone to take notes on the lectures in my Political Science 91 ("The U.S. Political System") for publication on the World Wide Web. According to the disclaimer that follows the publication of each day's lectures (I give it verbatim):
The lecture notes contained within Versity.com are a notetakers' interpretation of what was presented in the lecture. THEY ARE NOT A PROFESSOR'S LECTURE NOTES. The notes are not intended to be used as a substitute for going to lectures. They are intended to be used as a supplement to your own lecture notes. Notes on Versity.com are not required reading by the professor or the university. Any and all opinions stated in the lecture notes do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Versity.com, Inc. owners or agents, advertisers on the web site or any other affiliates of Versity.com, Inc. Versity.com officially warns and advises all users not to become dependent on the lecture notes as a substitute for attending classes
My course appears to have been selected because it is introductory and popular (the room holds 155 students and is full). Another justification could be that in a course consisting of two lectures by the professor and discussion sections conducted by teaching assistants, the professor presumably has little contact with the students. In fact, throughout the semester, I meet and discuss the course over dinner in the Oak Room with many of the students enrolled.
In any event, no one from or connected to Versity.com has ever asked me for permission or even consulted me about putting "an interpretation" of my lectures on the World Wide Web. Moreover, although I assume the person taking the notes is enrolled in the course, I cannot be sure since she or he has never identified herself or himself to me.
I have several serious concerns about Versity.com and its activities. I'll briefly outline some of them, trying not to be repetitious.
First, the presence of a Versity. com notetaker disrupts the professor's relationship with the students in the class. Given my experience teaching and doing research on the media, I am cognizant of the differences between the spoken and written word. I am aware of how unfortunate some of the arguments and assertions made and examples discussed in class (especially when the professor is playing devil's advocate) can look in the cold hard light of print. Statements, observations, comments, asides, are all vulnerable to distortion even when not presented out of context. Consequently, despite the best of intentions, some self-censorship by the professor is inevitable. Indeed, after a recent class session, several students told me that my lectures had become restrained and pleaded with me to return to my pre-Versity.com form.
Second, the notes range from inept and confusing to stenographic, even verbatim accounts of what was said in class. In no way are they "a notetaker's interpretation" (whatever that may mean).
Third, the notes do not--cannot--convey the appeal, irony, humor, spontaneity, fluency of language, range and levels of issues discussed, subtlety of analysis, references to the required reading, body language, physical movement, verbal inflections, vocal animation, and so much more of the professor's lectures.
Fourth, the availability of the notes on the Web can give students the impression that they do not need to come to class or, even if they attend the lectures, that they can rely on the notes as a supplement. This is a recipe for disastrously low grades. Success in most courses depends on thought, analysis, and understanding many sides of issues (and then some). These qualities are discouraged, even precluded, by the notes.
Fifth, despite the disclaimer, the notes are presented as from "Duke University: Political Sciences (sic) 91D." The name of the person supplying them is never given. In contrast, although the professor's name is not (yet?) spelled out, it is easy to identify the teacher of the course and thus the original source of the notes. Connected to the notes, the professor is responsible for their inadequacies,can be blamed for their contents, and can be attacked for their assertions by anyone (no matter how crazy) anywhere in the world.
Sixth, professors' often include in their lectures original research in which they are engaged. Students benefit from the discussion of the research's strengths, weaknesses, and tentative findings. The possibility of having this material revealed on the World Wide Web before it is ready for wider presentation, let alone publication, places the professor in a difficult dilemma: withhold the ideas and research from lectures, depriving students of the opportunity to benefit from them; or allow Versity.com to appropriate one's intellectual property making it prematurely available for exploitation by all.
Seventh, even when a professor's lectures seem simply to synthesize the extant literature on a subject, they contain original thought and analysis. Professors cull reams of material, decide what is important, organize and structure the major topics, and identify key issues. By putting these lectures on the World Wide Web Versity.com is, again, appropriating intellectual property, taking work without compensation.
Eighth, by putting Duke professors' lectures on the World Wide Web, Versity.com is cheapening the privilege, exclusivity and benefits of a Duke education. Our students and their parents can justifiably question why they should pay for a professor's lectures when the notes are freely available (even if only as a simulacrum) to all on the Web.
Ninth, the notes are available anywhere and everywhere in the world: Versity.com even urges readers to "E-Mail them to a friend." But presented to the world is a sorry version of what actually goes on in class in particular and at Duke in general. Surely the university cannot accept this situation.
Tenth, Versity.com shamelessly claims copyright for the notes which, no matter how inadequate, are the professor's work.
Finally, Versity.com intends to (may already) have advertising on the site, thereby exploiting the professor's work for profit and commercial purposes.
Versity.com currently covers several courses at Duke, includes additional universities in its ambit, and has ambitious plans to expand. Nor is it alone: other companies are doing likewise. In my view, these activities, indefensible as free speech, raise serious issues for our university in particular and for higher education in general. I am therefore sending copies of this letter to President Keohane, Provost Lange, Dean of the Faculty Chafe, University Counsel Adcock, and Political Science Department Chair Aldrich on the assumption that, after being fully informed of the situation, they will want to formulate an effective and enforceable university policy against the putting of professors' notes on the Web and against the companies doing so.
Through this public statement, I am hoping to alert my Duke colleagues across the campus about this threat to the integrity of their teaching. As significant an asset as the Internet can be to our teaching and research, it can also pose a threat to our professional work that we must resist through collaborative action.
by William H. Chafe
Dean of the Faculty
In this, the fifth of my addresses to the Arts and Sciences Council on the state of Arts and Sciences at Duke, I want to look backward and to look forward, assessing what we have accomplished and where we must do more but above all to examine the challenges and opportunities that accompany what is in many ways, a time of new beginnings.
On balance, I am pleased with our trajectory over the past four years. As you will recall, my first two years as dean were fraught with financial difficulties problems caused by a decline in indirect cost recoveries, the burden of paying off the LSRC debt, and rapidly rising financial aid costs. Because of all these, we were able to do fewer than 20 faculty searches my second year, and our reserves plummeted to less than $500,000.
Today, that situation has dramatically changed. Financial aid costs have evened out and we now have a $2 million financial aid reserve to compensate for any reversal in current trends in that area. Indirect cost recoveries have resumed an upward course; the trustees resolved the LSRC problem through creation of a quasi-endowment; and our development staff, under Jane Dittmann, has raised record sums. Indeed, our annual fund totals have far exceeded budgeted goals in recent years--a tribute to Sterly Wilder and her staff.
The result has been the ability to finance more than forty searches this year and last year, and to experience a degree of financial security we have not seen in recent years. Clearly, not every department will get all that they believe they should. But compared to where we were three years ago, our fortunes have improved remarkably.
We have also been able to follow through on two priorities to which I have been committed: targeted growth of faculty, and increased emphasis on interdisciplinary and inter-school programs. Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy, directed by Ken Dodge, has already made a significant impact nationally as well as locally. Our new Program in the Cognitive Neurosciences, working in collaboration with the Medical School and the School of Engineering, is off to a fast start. Other interdisciplinary programs also hold great promise, ranging from the Center for Nonlinear Science to the Center for Chemical Biology. The Free Electron Laser Laboratory, under its new director Glenn Edwards, is fast recovering its reputation for cutting edge science with relevance to users in medicine and other disciplines. I am especially pleased that we have continued to make progress in our effort to recruit minority faculty, including six members of the faculty appointed last year.
There have also been areas where we have fallen short. A number of superb faculty members have been recruited away from us by other institutions. Everyone knows of the difficulties experienced by the English department. Too often, we have failed to achieve our goal of having students taught by regular rank faculty. And there have continued to be complaints about unbalanced teaching loads, and about departments overburdened by students and understaffed by faculty.
In some of these instances, we have held our own. Approximately two thirds of Duke's faculty who were targets of recruitment by other institutions decided to remain here. The English department, under an executive committee superbly chaired by Jim Siedow, has taken giant steps forward, with a distinguished new chair, Maureen Quilligan, some wonderful hires, including Houston Baker, Charlotte Pierce-Baker, Joe Harris and Priscilla Wald, and a revived sense of departmental camaraderie and purpose. Still, numerous issues remain, and I hope that today as well as in subsequent years we can address them successfully.
What most impresses me at this moment, however, is not the past and what has been true, but rather the future, and the new beginnings and challenges we face. In many respects, we begin this year with a fresh slate. We have a new provost, a new deans' staff in Arts and Sciences, a brand new curriculum and writing program, new possibilities for bringing coherence and integrity to residential life and undergraduate education, and a new strategic planning effort. As with every set of departures, there will be ample opportunities to stumble and fall as we commence this journey; but we also have a marvelous chance to make changes that are constructive, deep, and have a lasting, positive influence on Duke's ability to serve its faculty and students.
We begin this process under the new academic leadership of Peter Lange as provost. Peter comes to this position with a strong record of leadership in internationalizing the university during his years as vice-provost, and as a creative chair of the department of political science and of the Curriculum 2000 committee. As he has announced, one of his primary goals will be to initiate a major strategic planning process for the entire university, placing academic priorities at the beginning of the overall enterprise of planning. I will be working closely with him on that venture, which I will discuss at length later in this presentation.
One of the changes Peter has made is my appointment as vice-provost for undergraduate education. Let me describe why I think this is an important role for me to play. As you know, we currently have four different focuses for authority and policy-making affecting undergraduate life: the Dean of Trinity College, the Dean of the School of Engineering, the Vice-President for Student Affairs, and the Provost, through his supervision of the Admissions and Financial Aid office. Through this new position, we have the opportunity to streamline and coordinate those different lines of authority. It is my intention to use the Undergraduate Administration Group (the UAG) to focus our attention on such policy issues as race and diversity at Duke, performance and under-performance of various segments of the student population, closer cooperation in curricular matters between Trinity and Engineering, and greater progress toward integrating academic and co-curricular life. We will also be looking at ways to refine our admissions and financial aid policies to better reflect our overall policies of inclusiveness.
One of the most important initiatives I am involved with in this new position is the proposal to restructure our residential life system. It is our hope that we can close Trent as quickly as possible, construct enough new beds to make it possible for most if not all sophomores to live on West, and develop a system of living units and social spaces that will encourage mutual respect and esteem among independents, fraternity and sorority members, and participants in other selective houses. Our goal is to recognize and celebrate the diversity that is in our midst, end the two-tier system of housing assignments that currently exists, and encourage development of a coherent student code of conduct that members of all student groups will design, disseminate, and enforce. I believe that the quality of residential life culture has a direct impact on the quality of academic culture and that reform in one arena will enhance substantially the other.
My new position as vice-provost is also directly connected to the reorganization that we have instituted in my office, especially with the appointment of Berndt Mueller as Dean of Natural Sciences, Karla Holloway as Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Bob Thompson as Dean of Trinity College. Each of these people is superbly qualified, and I am confident that the reorganization we have engaged in will strengthen substantially our ability to do a good job responding to and working with faculty and department chairs. The new divisional deans will exercise budgetary, faculty and management supervision of the departments within their divisions, help design and then implement yearly recruitment plans, work with chairs and under my guidance on long range strategic planning, and participate with me on re-appointment and tenure cases. As Dean of Trinity College, Bob Thompson will assume direct responsibility for all curriculum activities in the college, and continue to coordinate the work of the Trinity College deans and the DUSes, as well as initiate reforms involving teaching, technology and writing. Functioning as a team, we will do our best to make our administration effective and responsive to faculty and departments.
One of the greatest new challenges we face as a team, of course, is implementing Curriculum 2000. Our new curriculum is both exciting in what it promises our undergraduates, and challenging in what it asks of us. We are in the midst of preparing for these changes. Since last spring, the Trinity College deans have done a magnificent job working with DUSes to code all the courses currently in the curriculum so that we can map out the availability of courses that meet the requirements of Curriculum 2000. That work is an essential first step toward then identifying areas where new courses must be developed, and/or changes made in existing courses.
Based on the work of the Trinity deans and that of other task force groups, it seems clear that our major areas of need in gearing up for the new curriculum will be in the sciences and in languages, especially Spanish. Bob Thompson and his group will work closely with DUSes in those areas in the coming months to develop both short and long range plans for addressing these needs.
At the same time, we are gearing up for implementation of our new writing program. Professor Joseph Harris, recently arrived from the University of Pittsburgh, will direct that program as well as the Center for Teaching, Learning and Writing. Joe is a nationally recognized leader in composition teaching and scholarship. He will preside this year over the recruitment of our first cohort of new writing instructors, and work with departments to develop not only the introductory courses, but also the writing-in-the-curriculum courses that will be part of departmental offerings for upper class students.
The planning processes for both Curriculum 2000 and the Writing Program will be part of a far larger strategic planning process for the entire university. As I indicated earlier, Peter Lange is committed to having academic priorities drive this process. As the largest academic entity within the university (depending on how one counts medical school faculty members), we will clearly play a major role in that venture. I am a member of the steering committee Peter has established to oversee and guide this process, and we have already begun deliberations on how to facilitate interaction between the planning processes in different schools so that we can have a successful result for the entire university, based on the strong foundations established in each school.
One of our first priorities this year is to launch successfully that planning exercise in arts and sciences. Using the external reviews of various departments, we will consult with chairs and faculty leaders to think through the options, needs, and state of the art scholarship within different disciplines. Here, the new divisional deans in my office will be extremely helpful, as will the vice-provosts in Peter Lange's office. For example, we will give our highest priority this fall to beginning a long range planning process for the sciences. Aided by pending or recent external reviews in Zoology and Botany, Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science, we will look hard at issues of interdisciplinary and interschool cooperation, the structure of departments, their undergraduate instructional role, and their space needs. I am especially pleased at the cooperative relationship we are developing in the sciences with the deans of NSOE, Engineering, and the Medical School.
We have some resources for expansion based on the two-step tuition increase passed by the trustees 18 months ago; we also have funds made possible by the extraordinary success of our capital campaign. But we will need to find additional resources, both for capital construction and faculty development. Berndt Mueller and I look forward to working with John Harer and Lew Siegel from Peter Lange's office, as well as deans from the other schools in thinking through these issues. As we engage this process, we will be guided by both the need to reinforce Biology's status as a premier program in the nation, and to leverage forward largely through interdisciplinary initiatives the other sciences at Duke.
The same general principles will guide us in the other divisions as well. The key here is to think in terms of scholarly and teaching clusters. Where possible, departments should explore areas of faculty development where a recruitment in one area can enhance our strength in another. Let me give some examples. Economics and political science can collaborate in the area of political economy, public policy and history in the area of 20th century politics, literature and the languages in the area of film studies. The issue of ethics is one that potentially brings together faculty in philosophy, religion, political science, history, and sociology. Similar clusters exist in the philosophy, history, and practice of various sciences.
Clearly, there will always be a need to fill basic positions in a discipline such as Renaissance literature or medieval history, numbers theory in math, party systems in political science, or plant systematics in biology. But while acknowledging these commitments, we need also to think outside of the box, recognizing that in an age of limited resources, plans for expansion--if they are to be successful--must reach out to others and be based on complementarity and synergy. It is always easier to stay with the familiar. But most breakthroughs in research and teaching result from leaving the familiar and embarking on new terrain, informed by the challenge of conceiving problems in new ways and designing potentially new answers as well. It is for this reason that we have continued to emphasize programs such as the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary Studies--a program that begins this year--and other initiatives where faculty can come together and learn from each other's disciplinary perspectives. The beneficiaries of such programs are not only the individual scholars whose horizons are expanded, but the students who share in that expanded horizon through the new courses these faculty members teach.
In thinking about this problem, as so many others, it is important to recognize the tensions we all experience between difficult choices. Does a young assistant professor seize the opportunity to engage a new discipline, or dig into his own area of specialization in order better to prepare for tenure? Will a fast rising associate professor, already reputed to be the best in her field, hurt or help herself by agreeing to team teach a new course that involves reading a different literature? At what point is it worthwhile to put the interests of the university as a whole ahead of one's personal agenda for advancement? Does accepting a position on a departmental executive committee or as a DUS hinder or facilitate a faculty member's development?
As most of you know, I remain a fervent believer in striking a balance between research and teaching, and between personal ambition and collective advancement. (Part of this reflects my own experience, although I will confess that this summer I came back distressed by the fact that for the first time since I became dean, I was unable to get any of my own scholarly writing done. So I am not blind to the reality of these tensions.)
Still, I believe that what most distinguishes this institution is its aspiration to combine both the teaching strengths of a small liberal arts college and the scholarly resources of a large research university. We are challenged to be the best researchers we can be, always excited by new developments in a field and our ability to participate in expanding scholarly boundaries. But we are also called to impart that excitement of discovery to our students--graduate and undergraduate--and to share with them the wonder of grappling with new ideas, asking searching questions, and leaping forward to new syntheses of knowledge. So I will continue to encourage-- indeed, insist on-- everyone teaching a full load of courses and embracing the centrality of the classroom. But we will encourage with equal passion and commitment that pursuit of scholarship. That is why we have the new system of Dean's leaves for scholarly activity as well as the array of teaching awards that the college sponsors.
Finally, I believe there is a second distinguishing characteristic of Duke--the belief, shared by many here, that this university stands for more than just a disaggregated group of individuals doing their own thing. It is hard to define, but there is a sense of being part of or at least trying to achieve a larger collective purpose or identity. Of course, that means we have to give substance to our ideal by the way we treat each other, by the reward structure we put in place, by showing that service does mean something so that accepting that DUS job, or a position on the Arts and Sciences Council executive committee, is in fact valued and important. The tensions will never go away. They should not.
But as with most dialectics, there is more to be gained, I believe, by embracing the choices than by polarizing them. So we end by going back to the theme of new beginnings. This is an exciting time. Like all such moments of embarking on a new venture, there are plenty of apprehensions to make us wary of what lies ahead. But there is also the exhilaration of the challenge, and the excitement of making bold and creative responses to it. I believe that we have the will and the desire to engage that excitement in a manner that will convey our collective pride and enthusiasm about being here at this moment, and that the result will be a better university, a better faculty, and a better undergraduate program. I ask you to join us in making that goal a reality. Thank you.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
EdNote: The following prophecies were exhumed from the May-June 1968 Duke Alumni Register by Duke's Associate Archivist Tom Harkins. The introductory note was part of the original article.
Dr. Philip Handler, James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry and chairman of the department, began the discussion on "Duke University and the Year 2000" by telling alumni that "it is literally in our hands to direct our evolution," and that the direction for this evolution must come from the universities. Most explorations in the life sciences for the past two hundred years, he said, "have been aimed at pursuing the same goal--whether one can explain in detail all manifestations of life in the language of physics and chemistry, or whether there does remain some vital principle which escapes us, which is quite vital to life and does not operate in the inanimate universe."
At the present time, Dr. Handler contended, everything alive can be described in a few classical terms and can be mimicked in non-living systems, with the exception of mutations. However, "the largest single area of ignorance for scientists now is the human brain." The "mind-brain problem"--accounting for the brain in terms of its human structures--began only about five years ago. The tools for further experimentation are now available, he said, and by the year 2000 much progress will have been made with experiments in the chemical bases of the senses. Today, scientists are experimenting with a series of drugs which prevent learning in animals. It is known, Dr. Handler said, that all anti-biotics interfere with the genetic apparatus, preventing a synthesis of nucleic acid and protein, thus preventing "new memory." These experiments, he said, are the very beginning of understanding the brain in chemical terms.
It is probable, Dr. Handler said, that we may begin to alter the higher functions of the brain with chemicals. The possibility of tranquilizing drugs which could depress a whole society, preventing its members from understanding their own intrinsic problems, or the possibility of stimulants which could arouse its members to mass annihilation of other peoples, "raises enormous problems to the future of our society, as to how the results will be used," Dr. Handler said.
In directing our evolution, scientists can use their knowledge for the benefit of man by eliminating hereditary disease, or they could conceivably alter the entire genetics of a population. Dr. Handler projected the possibility of going a step farther than controlling half the hereditary input by "storing the sperm of the illustrious for breeders." "If you remove the nucleus from the fertilized egg and substitute the nucleus from a body cell, when the egg develops you will get a carbon copy of the individual from whom you took the second nucleus." The possibilities of this experiment, which has proved successful in animals, call for "dreadful decisions." "How many Einsteins, or Mozarts, or Willie Mays do you want?" Dr. Handler asked. He rested the responsibility for such decisions ultimately on the universities. "American universities are unique; their origins in the land grant colleges added the notion of responsibility and service to society. It is here that many of the decisions about tomorrow will have to be made."
But to make these decisions wisely, the universities must be restructured, Dr. Handler contended. The "unifying concept that all life is understandable in chemical and physical terms has made a mockery of many of the lines which separate the biological disciplines. In due time we will have to reorganize the life of the University to take cognizance of this. The barriers have fallen intellectually--we now have to remove them in terms of the administrative management."
"At the same time, these problems require solutions and decisions which should never be left to the scientists. Scientists are very competent in the laboratory, but they have no right to make the larger decisions which affect mankind. It is imperative in the University to create interdisciplinary operations, crossing the life sciences with philosophy, religion, government, and sociology, because these greater questions will have to be resolved. If they are not resolved deliberately, the events will run away with themselves; and whenever that happens, you can be certain mankind will suffer."
Speaking for the social sciences, Dr. John C. McKinney, professor of sociology and department chairman, disclaimed for his discipline the ability to reduce the number of problems which will face society in the year 2000. Social problems are "indigenous to society," Dr. McKinney explained. "All societies at all times and at all places have problems, either internally or relating to their environment." The major problems which have existed through time until the present are those primarily of allocation--who gets the money, power, status--and of maintaining order, Dr. McKinney said.
Citing the major problems facing American society, Dr. McKinney stressed that most of them are not new, and most of them "will be with us in the year 2000." Such problems as population pressures, resources, information codification, disparity in the labor force, urban decay and reconstruction of the cities, and alienation of youth, all indicate "the increasing importance of the University," Dr. McKinney said. "The nineteenth-century driving epic of the Industrial Revolution and its spinoffs, the corporations," have passed, he said. "The central object of society will no longer be the factory, but the University which will be supplying the labor force and harnessing information."
Dr. McKinney said that by the year 2000, problems already existing in American society, such as the alienated youth groups--ranging from hippies to the Students for a Democratic Society--major confrontations between blacks and whites, and the "silent revolution" in the changing relationship between men and women "will make for serious structural changes." Regarding the role of the University, Dr. McKinney stressed that now all disciplines study different aspects of social systems. "The disciplines make an impact on society's problems, but do not solve them. At Duke for years we have been studying the problems; one can not assume this will lead to a reduction of problems. Problems will be different in type but will not be fewer in number or lesser in magnitude."
The University, however, could play a vital role in meeting the problems of natural resources in the year 2000, according to Dr. Frank Woods, associate professor of forest ecology. Dr. Woods proposed a new College of Resource Sciences at Duke, the nucleus of t he college being the School of Forestry, the geology department, and the division of oceanography, with the School of Engineering "sharing" in the development of the programs. The mission of such a college, Dr. Woods said, would be to prepare students for research and policy-making positions in the area of resource science, which he said will be of the utmost importance in the year 2000. "Natural resources determine the level of technology," Dr. Woods said, defining natural resources to include abstractions such as time, life, and new ideas, as well as conventionally conceived resources such as coal, oil, forests, and the oceans. At the turn of the next century, he predicted, resources and energy from these resources will be allocated on a worldwide basis. If they are not, he cautioned, the only alternative is fiercer competition among nations and a perpetual state of war.
Duke students in the year 2000 must be less provincial than those today and develop a supranational perspective, he said. Dr. Woods envisioned a program of education that would require students to study several semesters at other universities across the globe before receiving their degrees. Professors, Dr. Woods projected, would have two homes-one near the university and another near a center for continuing education. Such centers would serve to help professors spend at least one-fourth of their time updating knowledge in their fields. The Research Triangle was suggested as an ideal site for such an undertaking.
Dr. Woods, reiterating Dr. Handler's contention that all sciences are yielding to their "common bases," urged the abolition of artificial education compartments. In the year 2000, Dr. Woods maintained, none of the departments will be able to remain islands unto themselves. The incoming high school seniors will have grasped as much knowledge as our college graduates of today. Consequently, there will be few required courses, and the "lock-step" manner in which students acquire an education will be gone. The "restrictive limitations of the main campus will be eliminated," Dr. Woods said. "The main campus with its gargoyles and spires is a symbol of parochialism and provides a poor environment for developing imaginative resource ideas," he concluded.
Dr. Thomas Wilson, chairman of the department of electrical engineering, was the sole speaker who viewed the year 2000 only in terms of its technical possibilities and not in terms of its perils. Carrying alumni through an "average" day in the life of a Duke engineering student in the year 2000, Dr. Wilson based his projections upon changes "which are already on the scene," and not upon the "many others we can't even guess at."
The plausibly fictionalized student, Dr. Wilson said, rises and prepares himself a breakfast of reconstituted bacon squares and rehydrated peaches. On his way to class he stops at a facsimile terminal where he picks up some mathematical models he had requested from the National Information Retrieval System. At the main quad, he steps not onto the bus but onto a moving sidewalk, a green-carpeted conveyor belt which carries him to East Campus.
The majority of the student's time, Dr. Wilson maintained, is not spent in the classroom, but in self-study and with programmed learning instruments. With television, programmed texts, and computer-aided instruments, he can study at his own learning speed. Only once a week does he meet with an instructor and three other students to review his work and set goals for the next week of study. He also attends a weekly conference with engineers in Raleigh to which he travels either in his electric car or on the pneumatic tube vehicle which connects Duke with the campuses at Raleigh and Chapel Hill in only eight minutes.
Other changes Dr. Wilson predicted will be an increase in women engineering students from the present 1 or 2 per cent to 30 per cent, the return of practicing engineers to the University for "new skills," and a central engineering complex. Dr. Wilson concluded that "although the s ubject matter of engineering may have changed by the year 2000, the motivation to apply math and physical science to economically utilize the forces for the well-being of man will be the same."
Looking Ahead and Looking Backward--
Two Poems by Robert Frost
NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
--from New Hampshire (1923)
IT IS ALMOST THE YEAR TWO THOUSAND
To start the world of old
We had one age of gold
Not labored out of mines,
And some say there are signs
The second such has come,
The true Millennium,
The final golden glow
To end it. And if so
(And science ought to know)
We will may raise our heads
From weeding garden beds
And annotating books
To watch this end deluxe.
--from A Witness Tree (1942)
Random Readings & Culture Studies
"It is extremely gratifying. . . to see so many Parisian workers chatting to German soldiers as friends, in the street or at the corner cafe. Well done, comrades, and keep it up, even if some members of the bourgeouisie, who are as stupid as they are mischievous, don't like it. The brotherhood of man will not remain a hope forever: it will become a living reality."
--L'Humanite, the French Communist newspaper,
on July 4, 1940, one month after the fall of France and ten months after
the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact. Cited from The Sewanee Review,
Summer 1999 (448)
PENSEES OF A BILLIONAIRE:
"One of the things we all have to learn is that there are problems which have no solutions. On the other hand, how we deal with these problems has a great effect on how we live. In Russia, there may actually be no solution. You can make the situation better or worse, however. This is one of the themes that my philanthropic work is based on. My concept of an open society is of a society that is imperfect but is open to improvement. So, for instance, in the United States I have a project on death. Death is clearly a problem that has no solution. But the way we treat death can make it either better or worse. If we deny the fact and refuse to deal with the circumstances of death, which many Americans do, that makes it worse. My project is about helping Americans come to terms with death, and I think it has made a contribution.
The drug issue in America again illustrates the principle I am talking about. I believe that drug addiction is a problem with no solution. A drug-free America is unobtainable. But the war on drugs actually does more harm to our society than the drug problem itself. So there are many situations, and Russia is certainly one of them, which have no solution. But that is no excuse for giving up on them."
George Soros, The New York Review of Books (1/14/99, 40)
from HARPER'S INDEX
Average annual amount the U.S. will spend on nuclear-arms programs through the year 2008: $4,500,000,000.
Average annual U.S. spending on nuclear-arms programs during the Cold War: $3,700,000,000.
Ratio of miles of logging and other roads in U.S. national forests to the total length of the interstate highway system: 8:1.
Percentage change since 1996 in the income of North Dakota farmers: -98.
-Harper's Magazine (9/98, 17)
SCIENCE FOR LAYPERSONS:
LIFE SPAN OF A PROTON:
"The proton's lifetime is still not known, but a new, more stringent lower limit has been found by the Super-Kamiokande underground detector in Japan. . . . The research team. . . concludes that protons persist for at least . . .100 billion trillion years."
-Scientific American 1/99 (30)
"A cosmic ray particle coming from the direction of the constellation Auriga, detected by an instrument in Utah in 1991, has an energy. . . more than 100 million times beyond the range of present [particle] accelerators. Current theories say that is impossible. . . If these cosmic rays are protons or atomic nuclei, as the experiments hint, they must be moving at almost the speed of light. . . . After traveling 150 million light-years, no ordinary particle could still have the observed energies. . . . Exploding stars can propel particles up to only about 1 percent of the required energy. And the mighiest known cosmic slingshots-quasars and active galactic nuclei, the by-products of a massive black hole at lunch-are too far away."
-George Musser, Scientific American 1/99 (34)
THE PHILOSOPHY OF NUMBERS:
"One tenth of the land on earth is tundra. At any time, it is raining on only 5 percent of the planet's surface. Lightning strikes the planet about a hundred times every second. The insects outweigh us. Our chickens outnumber us four to one.
One fifth of us are Muslims. One fifth of us live in China. And every seventh person is a Chinese peasant. Almost one tenth of us live within range of an active volcano. More than 2 percent of us are mentally retarded. We humans drink tea--over a billion cups a day. Among us we speak 10,000 languages. . . .
Every 110 hours a million more humans arrive on the planet than die into the planet. A hundred million of us are children who live on the streets. . . . Sixteen million of us live in Cairo. Twelve million fish for a living from small boats. . . . Nearly a thousand of us a day commit suicide. . . .Two million children die a year from diarrhea, and 800,000 from measles. Do we blink? Stalin starved 7 million Ukrainians in one year, Pol Pot killed 1 million Cambodians, the flu epidemic of 1918 killed 21 or 22 million people. . . shall this go on? Or do you suffer, as Teilhard de Chardin did, the sense of being "an atom lost in the universe"? . . . As I write this, I am still alive, but of course I might well have died before you read it. . . .The paleontologist Teilhard is pushing up daisies."
--Annie Dillard, "The Wreck of Time,"
Harper's Magazine 1/98 (excerpts from 51-56)
THE MALTHUSIAN SYNDROME:
"In absolute numbers, putting the first billion people on Earth took from the beginning of time to about 1830. Adding the latest billion took twelve years."
Joel E. Cohen, The New York Review of Books (10/8/98, 29)
Adventures in Noble Thinking
"[Our] sentient brains are uniquely capable of experiencing deep regret and sorrow and fear at the prospect of our own death, yet it was the invention of death, the invention of the germ/soma dichotomy, that made possible the existence of our brains. . . .
Does death have any meaning?
Well, yes, it does. Sex without death gets you single-celled algae and fungi; sex with a mortal soma gets you the rest of the eukaryotic creatures. Death is the price paid to have trees and clams and birds and grasshoppers, and death is the price paid to have human consciousness, to be aware of all that shimmering awareness and all that love.
My somatic life is the wondrous gift wrought by my forthcoming death."
--Ursula Goodenough, in The Sacred Depths of Nature (Oxford,
cited by Barbara Smuts, Scientific American (5/99, 102)
The Faculty Forum is published monthly by the Academic Council of Duke University.
Editor: Victor Strandberg (English). Editorial Advisory Board: Matt Cartmill (Biological Anthropology & Anatomy), Howard Clark (Biomedical Engineering), Buford Jones (English), Seymour Mauskopf (History), and Kathy Rudy (Women's Studies).
The purpose of the Faculty Forum is
to provide an opportunity for faculty members to discuss topics of common
interest. The FF therefore welcomes, and indeed depends on, contributions
by faculty members. Contributions may be published anonymously, but the
editor will need to know the identity of all contributors so as to authenticate
the contribution and permit appropriate editing procedures. We welcome
fact, opinion, and creative whimsy from across the wide range of Arts &
Sciences and Professional Schools--book reviews (new or reprinted), short
essays, serendipitous items from random reading, and voices from the eternal
kulturkampf. Contributions of every kind should be sent, in both print
and (if lengthy) computer disk, to the editor,Victor Strandberg, in 315
Allen Building. Voicemail
is 684-3976; no objection to calls at home, 489-5531. E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org FAX (English department) is 919-684-4871. The deadline for submissions is about the 25th of each month.