CONCLUSION: THE NEW GOLD STANDARD
A moment ago I spoke of the fifteen distinguished American universities, institutions of such influence that, to this day, every university in the nation measures itself according to their standards. I said that these universities represent the gold standard, but a gold standard of the past. The new gold standard will be represented by the university that is inclusive, rather than exclusive, the university that is fully committed to its community, the university that directly engages the challenges of its cultural, socioeconomic, and physical setting, and shapes its research initiatives with regard to their social outcomes.
As we look ahead in this still new century, the world is more complex, and we can speak with less certainty than was possible in the past. Fifty years ago those involved in the academic enterprise enjoyed a buoyant optimism, and the possibilities that science and technology and art were seen to offer appeared limitless. Today we have come to suspect that the outcome of our enterprise is not without unexpected consequences. We are no longer unequivocal in our praise of science and technology, nor of our own cultural paradigm—even the hegemony of reason is suspect.
Yet where else but in the university is it possible to engage in such self-reflection, even when self-assessment leads to no facile conclusion? Where else are doubt and skepticism and uncertainty given the respect they are owed? In this sense, little has changed since Cardinal Henry Newman wrote in 1872: A true university is “a place where inquiry is pushed forward, and discoveries verified and perfected, and rashness rendered innocuous, and error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, and knowledge with knowledge.”
I believe we should strive to become a true university, not a place for a few, but a force for many. There is much at stake. Our success affects the fortunes of the region, but, if we are successful, if we are able to create a true academic community in the fullest sense of the idea, then we may prove to have more influence than we suspected.
But I cannot do it alone. I ask you to join me in the task of redefining the American research university. I ask you to join me in the task of building the premier new American university—the university that sets the new gold standard. I ask you to join me in the task of building Arizona State University.