Like society, higher education is evolving more rapidly than ever. Competition has never been more intense while public scrutiny has never been greater. The good news is that I do not believe that the scrutiny has increased because we are not doing our jobs well. I believe the scrutiny has increased because never before in the history of education has a college or university degree been in greater demand. As the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “the future ain’t what it used to be.”
Perhaps the greatest example of this does not lie within the United States but outside our nation. Internationally, the last decade has witnessed unprecedented tertiary education reforms from China to Canada that have blown open the doors to collegiate access and elevated educational attainment to record levels. Most of this evolution has occurred within the last ten to fifteen years.
Although our public mission is challenging and increasingly complex I firmly believe that we have the best jobs in the world. We have never been needed more by society and the responsibility that we share, although vast, is incredibly rewarding. It is our responsibility to constantly “expand the spectrum of knowledge” while also effectively battling the forces that seek to narrow the channel of thought. We are obligated to remind society as Aristotle stated, that “poverty is the parent of revolution and crime” and that “education is the best provision for the journey to old age.” This also means that at times we do not always do what is popular. It is not our responsibility and the responsibility of great universities to follow society. However, it is our responsibility and the social obligation as a great university to lead society. If we meet this obligation then the education that we provide should arm our students, and eventually society with the ability to prevail in its ongoing struggle against the primitive Hobbesian instincts that inherently pull society away from the common good.
Thank you for you dedication, commitment and professionalism. Good luck this year and Go Beach!