The rad scientist

The April 25th issue of Crains NY featured an article “The Rad Scientist” about the Matthew Goldstein, the head honcho of the CUNY system if you didn’t know.  Recent times have seen him push to elevate the profile of the CUNY system.  Namely to pursue cutting edge research.   More research is great, but I see Baruch and the CUNY system loosing sight of its mandate.  To educate.  Funds are being diverted,  existing facilities are suffering and the teaching staff is moving towards theorertical (i.e. PhDs) background  from practical (e.g. industrial.)

The first downside is whether spending vast sums to build and expand is wise while the overall system is facing enormous cuts in this climate.  It is true that the current construction projects started in different times.  However, look at the existing physical state of the CUNY system.  It’s falling apart.  Are we really going to attract the best scientists and thinkers with rooms that desperately need a paint job, escalators that don’t work ( and haven’t worked for years at the Baruch Vertical Campus), windows are filthy and the general appearance is disheveled?  On a recent visit to a venerable Morningside institution I couldn’t help but notice that the buildings were spotless and well maintained.  Some are state of the art, but many are old and in need of repair, but these structures are cared for. This is not what I see at many of the buildings of the buildings in the CUNY system.

More importantly, the chancellor is missing the massive, but slow, shift happening in our economy. Everyone knows businesses demand skilled employees.  To remain competitive in our knowledge economy, we must have educated people. What we lose sight of is the level of education.  Speaking from my technical background (land surveying) we desperately need technicians. These are the people who ordinarily would have done well in life with a HS diploma in the manufacturing industry.  Now we need new workers to have an associates degrees.  Yes, we need plenty of engineers and those with bachelors & masters degrees.  The need is much more profound for laborers of the knowledge industry — technicians.  Those who CUNY historically educated. David Brooks writes exactly to this point that the community college will do the heavy lifting of our technical and knowledge industry.

Lastly, I have seen a strong to push to fill  lecture halls with what the administration sees as the best. That is good, except when it’s not.   The strongest research institutions have the best, smartest  (and most prolific) PhDs.  CUNY has its base more rooted in the community it serves and that means teaching.  Are PhDs the best at teaching? Do they have the most relevant experience to the industry for which that they are preparing their students? I don’t have those answers. What worries me is the sidelining of the masters + professional degree equivalence for prospective faculty. In other words, PhDs only.  Those with relevant industry experience and professional licenses need not apply.   Are students best served by those who climbed the ivory tower or those with muddy boots?

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