Hanson for provost

She has the experience and values necessary to defend public education.

Editorial board

Public higher education faces a variety of problems at the current moment, not the least of which is public skepticism of its value. People wonder why they should finance public universities if they donâÄôt see any immediate benefit in their own personal lives from doing so. Parents are mostly concerned about whether a public education will be able to get their son or daughter a job immediately after graduation. Because all public universities âÄî including the University of Minnesota âÄî face these pressures, we need a fighter who will vigorously defend the value and values of higher education to the public and to the state Legislature. That is why the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board endorses Karen Hanson to be the UniversityâÄôs next provost.

Hanson has plenty of relevant experience: She is already a provost at a large public university, having held that position at Indiana since 2007. As someone with a liberal arts education, she will balance President Eric Kaler, a scientist. That experience in the liberal arts also encourages us to believe that she will defend them vigorously in an environment that pushes science and technology education, sometimes at the expense of the liberal arts.

Hanson shares our understanding of the nature of administrators as well. In her visit to campus, she said, âÄúThe administration has to understand itself [as] not having any intrinsic value at all, but having instrumental value because it should see itself as supporting the work of the faculty, and that includes educating our students.âÄù We could not agree more: Administration is not valuable except where it improves the actual work of the University.

As a high-achieving, intelligent woman, Hanson inherently brings a new perspective to the UniversityâÄôs highest academic administrative position. Many past provosts were white men, and most deanships are also filled by men.

Another contrast with the previous administration is HansonâÄôs admirable engagement with reality rather than perception. About the provost position, she said âÄúIâÄôm not interested in the position; IâÄôm interested in the job.âÄù This is exactly the right attitude for a new provost to take. The new hire should be someone who is interested in not just holding the position of provost but doing something positive with it.

However, we do have a concern about the âÄúnew partnershipsâÄù with business that Hanson has mentioned she would like to bring to the University. We should be extremely skeptical of the University selling out to big businesses âÄî there is a significant danger that âÄúbusiness partnersâÄù will simply be interested in paying below-market rates to farm out their research and development work to public universities. Taxpayers should not have to pay for private sector research. Furthermore, if the UniversityâÄôs research produces a result that is unfavorable to the company sponsoring it, pressure from that company may result in the University censoring its results. That is unacceptable.

Seeing the trend of declining public funds and eroding public opinion of higher education and responding to it by throwing up our hands, giving it up as a lost cause and begging businesses to bail us out is the lazy way out of higher educationâÄôs problems. We hope our next provost will preserve the values of public education and defend them to the public and to the state Legislature.

We cannot simply plead with the Legislature to maintain our funding so that we can continue to do the same things we are already doing. Instead, we need to demonstrate to them that we have a specific, detailed plan that shows the many benefits we provide to the state of Minnesota.

We think Karen Hanson is the best suited of the provost candidates to defend public education and its values and to improve the way the University does its important work. Kaler should pick her as the next provost of the University.