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Crow: Universities must be more evolutionary in their character

March 02, 2009

“The notion of universities as static, rigid structures has contributed to our present, economic situation,” according to ASU President Michael M. Crow in remarks delivered Feb. 4 at the 33rd convocation of the Lecture Series of the Americas in Washington, D.C.

Crow was joined at the event, sponsored by the Organization of American States, by Rafael Rangel Sostmann, president of the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Tec) in Mexico, and Raúl Bao García, president of the Universidad San Martín de Porres (USMP) in Perú to offer perspectives on “The Challenges of Globalization and the New Role of Universities in the Hemisphere.”

“Because universities have not been more evolutionary in their character,” Crow said, “they haven’t been adaptive to the changes in technology. They haven’t been adaptive to the changes in globalization. They haven’t been as adaptive as they might be to the challenges that we have to educate larger and larger numbers of people, rather than small select group of élite individuals.”

He said that universities must focus on innovation of themselves, creativity in their structure and an expansion of the roles they’ve played in the past.

Crow and the other university leaders agreed that too much emphasis was placed on arbitrary university rankings relative to some hypothetical exemplar and argued instead that an institution’s true value is seen in how the intellectual energy of the institution connects to things that make the most difference for the people that they serve.

At ASU, Crow said, “We have been working to be very much a university built on democratic principles, connected to the people in every possible way. You can’t do that and at the same time build elitist, separatist structures of rigid embodied faculty that have no capacity to change.”

“We are engineering how the institution is structured,” he said, “where we are located, the people we are connected to, and the people that we serve are critically important to us, as well as how we are designing every aspect of the institution.”

The event, moderated by Miami Herald syndicated columnist, Andrés Oppenheimer, was attended by some 200 individuals from the Washington diplomatic community and organizations with an interest in hemispheric and educational issues, and broadcast worldwide on the Web and via satellite radio and TV.

For more on the Lecture Series of the Americas, visit: