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The Pursuit of Knowledge

The Pursuit of Knowledge: Speeches and Papers of Richard C. Atkinson

Richard C. Atkinson
Patricia A. Pelfrey editor
With a foreword by David S. Saxon
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Pursuit of Knowledge
    Book Description:

    Richard C. Atkinson’s eight-year tenure as president of the University of California (1995–2003) reflected the major issues facing California itself: the state’s emergence as the world’s leading knowledge-based economy and the rapidly expanding size and diversity of its population. As this selection of President Atkinson’s speeches and papers reveals, his administration was marked by innovative approaches that deliberately shaped U.C.’s role in this changing California. These writings tell the story of the national controversy over the SAT and Atkinson’s successful challenge to the dominance of the seventy-five-year-old college entrance examination. They also highlight other issues with national significance: U.C.’s experiments with race-neutral admissions programs; the challenges facing academic libraries and the University’s pioneering activities with the California Digital Library; and the University’s involvement in new paradigms of industry-university research. Together, these speeches and papers open a window on an eventful period in the history of the nation’s leading public research university and the history of American higher education.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93394-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    David S. Saxon

    There are two ways of judging the accomplishments of university presidents: by the battles they have won and the battles they have fought. The battles won are reflected in such bottom-line measures as the size of the institutional budget and the distinction of the faculty. From this vantage point, Richard Atkinson’s tenure as president of the University of California was rich in victories. But understanding the ideas and ideals of a particular presidency requires a far broader perspective—a sense of the battles a president has faced as well as the battles that have been won. These live on in...

    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Patricia A. Pelfrey
  5. A Brief History of the Atkinson Presidency 1995–2003
    (pp. 1-8)

    The issues that dominated the administration of Richard C. Atkinson grew out of the forces shaping California: the state’s emergence as the world’s leading knowledge-based economy and the rapidly expanding size and diversity of its population, which brought the largest student generation since the 1960s to the University’s door. Atkinson’s administrative and intellectual leadership of the University reflected a deliberate effort to defi ne U.C.’s role in this changing California.

    Atkinson led the University into the post-affirmative-action era and American education into a new chapter in the history of standardized testing as the seventeenth president of the nation’s leading multicampus...


    • Remarks on Receiving the University of Chicago Alumni Medal June 2003
      (pp. 11-15)

      It is always a wonderful experience to return to the University of Chicago. The campus was beautiful when I first set eyes upon it in 1944, and even with all the changes, it is still one of the most beautiful and inspiring campuses in the world.

      My decision to enroll at the University of Chicago was by pure happenstance. Both of my parents were immigrants to the United States. Neither had much formal education, and in our household, a college education was not high on our list of priorities. But in February of 1944, when I was a sophomore in...

    • The Golden Fleece, Science Education, and U.S. Science Policy November 1997
      (pp. 16-32)

      I was pleased to accept Roger Hahn’s kind invitation to participate in this colloquium series. It gave me an opportunity to rethink some events I was associated with at the National Science Foundation [NSF] in the 1970s. I would like to review briefly U.S. science policy since World War II from the perspective of the National Science Foundation, and in particular from the narrower perspective of science education and the social sciences at NSF. This is a personal account, not a scholarly one, and I would be delighted if my remarks were to stimulate some aspiring young historians to undertake...

    • Remarks on Appointment as President of the University of California August 1995
      (pp. 33-36)

      It is an honor to be selected the seventeenth president of the University of California. I come to the position with full knowledge of the enormous challenges facing the University. More importantly, I am inspired by the remarkable contributions that the University has made to the well-being of California. The people of California have created the finest public university in the world, and I am committed to maintaining its preeminence.

      As we approach the twenty-first century, the University is more critical than ever to the economic vitality and social integrity of our society.

      In economic terms, a society’s wealth was...


    • The Future of the University of California: A Personal View September 1998
      (pp. 39-53)

      The role of knowledge in transforming virtually every aspect of our world has moved research universities like the University of California to center stage of American life. More than any other institution in our society, research universities are on the cutting edge in producing the well-educated people who drive our economy and the new research ideas that keep it growing.

      The tradition of research universities has been to value knowledge for its own sake. However, society’s increasing need for applications of knowledge has placed new demands on these institutions, including the University of California, as we move into the twenty-first...

    • The Role of the President of the University December 1997
      (pp. 54-58)

      The 1868 Organic Act proclaimed that the University of California would be led by a “President of the several Faculties . . . [who would also be] the executive head of the institution in all its departments.” Despite this sweeping description of the president’s powers, the office carried academic but little administrative authority in the early days of the University. In 1890, for example, it took a special amendment to the Regents’ Bylaws to give the president authority “to employ, dismiss, and regulate the duties of janitors.”¹ As late as 1901, the Regents were still giving individual consideration to each...

    • Robert Gordon Sproul November 1999
      (pp. 59-62)

      Robert Gordon Sproul graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in the same class as his friend Earl Warren and, like Warren, was destined to become a shaper of events in twentieth-century California. But unlike Warren, the future governor and Supreme Court justice, Sproul chose to devote his prodigious energies to a single institution—the University of California.

      In 1914, after a year working for the city of Oakland as an efficiency engineer following his college graduation, Sproul joined the U.C. comptroller’s office in Berkeley. He would spend the next forty-four years with the University, twenty-eight of them as its...

    • Tradition at the University of California Regents’ Dinner September 1998
      (pp. 63-69)

      Let me add my welcome to the one you’ve already received from the chairman of the Board of Regents. A special welcome to the leaders of the business community who are joining us this evening. You are all individuals who have made important contributions to the University of California and to your communities, and this is an opportunity to thank you and to get to know you a little better.

      These are good times for the University of California. Although we face some major challenges—among them ensuring diversity in a post–Proposition 209 world—it is clear that U.C....

    • Diversity: Not There Yet April 2003
      (pp. 70-74)

      In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court’s hearing on affirmative action, the public University of California system was depicted alternately as a dramatic success or a dismal failure in its efforts to enroll Latino and African American students after the elimination of race and ethnicity as factors in student admissions.¹

      The truth lies somewhere in between. But as a university president who took office just after the decision in California to disallow consideration of race and ethnicity in University admissions—and as one who retires a few months from now—I have concluded that we are still not...


    • The Numbers Game and Graduate Education October 1996
      (pp. 77-85)

      The National Science Board reportScience and Engineering Indicators,1996 has a new section this year, entitled “Science and Engineering Labor Market.”¹ It begins with the following statement: “The performance of the U.S. economy is the major determinant of current and future demand for scientists and engineers.” I would argue that this statement represents a short-term perspective on the science and engineering labor market. Clearly, the current economy determines the flow of taxes, company revenues, and the number of individuals who will be hired at any given time. A long-term perspective, however, would focus on the importance of science and...

    • Opportunities for Chinese and American Universities in the Knowledge-Based Economy October 1999
      (pp. 86-98)

      It is a great pleasure to be back in China. I first came here in 1978 as director of the National Science Foundation [NSF] to explore the possibility of an exchange of students, scholars, and scientists between our two countries. The Chinese government had expressed an interest in such an exchange; the White House was taken by surprise but quickly agreed to talks, with one proviso—that such an exchange would require a formal “memorandum of understanding” signed by the two governments. What has been called the Nixon-Kissinger ping-pong diplomacy occurred earlier, but it had not led to a normalization...

    • The Globalization of the University May 2001
      (pp. 99-112)

      We are living in an age of unprecedented intellectual discovery, an era in which knowledge doubles every twelve to fifteen years in the sciences alone. Thanks to revolutionary advances in telecommunications, we are also living in an age of unprecedented dissemination of knowledge. Our rapidly expanding ability to share information and ideas is leading to what can be called the globalization of the university. By “globalization” I mean the forces that are transforming the university from an institution with a monopoly on knowledge to one among many different types of organizations serving as information providers, and from an institution that...

    • Academic Freedom and the Research University June 2003
      (pp. 113-128)

      When we imagine creating the modern research university de novo, the first cornerstone to be laid is that of academic freedom. The American idea of academic freedom originated in Europe; it was faculty trained in European universities who brought with them the concept to American universities. About half of the members of the 1915 American Association of University Professors (AAUP) committee that first articulated a statement of academic freedom in the United States were graduates of German universities.

      Academic freedom was critical in enabling faculty first to free themselves from sectarian religious domination and later to resist secular political control....

    • A New World of Scholarly Communication November 2003
      (pp. 129-134)

      Higher-education leaders invariably have long lists of difficult issues to confront. These days, high on my list is the future of our university libraries. Although libraries form the basic infrastructure of the academic endeavor, I have come face to face with an unhappy fact: University librarians are now being forced to work with faculty members to choose more of the publications they can dowithout. The ballooning costs of academic publications are preventing faculty members and researchers from gaining access to the world’s scholarship and knowledge.

      Even in the best of economic times, university libraries cannot hope to keep pace...


    • Standardized Tests and Access to American Universities February 2001
      (pp. 137-148)

      It is a distinct pleasure to present the Robert H. Atwell Distinguished Lecture. I have known and admired Bob for many years. As president of Pitzer College, as head of the American Council on Education, and in many other roles as well, he has been an eloquent voice on behalf of the nation’s colleges and universities, and for that we are all in his debt. I cannot think of a better way to recognize his important contributions than by this annual lecture in his honor.

      More than any other country in the world, the United States has sought to put...

    • The California Crucible: Demography, Excellence, and Access at the University of California July 2001
      (pp. 149-162)

      Last February I gave an address to the American Council on Education about two proposals I have made to the Academic Senate of the University of California. The first proposal was that the University make the SAT I examination optional for admission to the University of California, and that we replace it with a standardized test that assesses mastery of specific academic subject areas rather than aptitude, as the SAT I purports to do. The second was that the University should move away from admissions processes that use narrowly defined quantitative formulas and, instead, adopt procedures that look at applicants...

    • Statement on the Vote by the College Board Trustees to Revise the SAT I June 2002
      (pp. 163-164)

      I am delighted by the College Board’s decision to alter the SAT I examination. It marks a major event in the history of standardized testing. I give enormous credit to the College Board and to its president, Gaston Caperton, for the vision they have demonstrated in bringing forward these changes and for their genuine commitment to improved educational attainment in our nation. By their action today, they have laid the foundation for a new test that will better serve our students and schools.

      Standardized tests perform a necessary function in American education, providing a common measure of student performance in...

    • College Admissions and the SAT: A Personal Perspective April 2004
      (pp. 165-179)

      My intent in this paper is to offer a personal perspective on the events that led to a major change in the college admissions test known as the SAT. The new test will be in place for all students—nationwide—who must take the SAT as part of the admissions process for the college class entering in the fall of 2006. Hopefully, this account will be useful to those trying to change policies and practices deeply entrenched in our society.

      Before I begin, let me introduce some terminology. By the termstandardized test,I mean simply a test administered under...

    • Farewell Remarks to the Board of Regents September 2003
      (pp. 180-189)

      Very shortly, I will be leaving the presidency of the University of California after eight years in office. It has been pointed out that I seem to have a knack for picking tumultuous times for my entrances and exits. When I took office as U.C.’s seventeenth president in 1995, the University and much of the state were paralyzed by a bitter debate over affirmative action. As I prepare to leave on October 1, our state is consumed by a gubernatorial recall election that will feature a ballot with 135 candidates. California never is at a loss for interesting issues....

    • Regents’ Resolution in Honor of Richard C. Atkinson September 2003
      (pp. 190-194)

      WHEREAS, on October 2, 2003, Richard C. Atkinson will have retired as the seventeenth President of the University of California, the fifth-longest serving president in the University’s rich history, and a president whose dynamic and courageous leadership has enhanced U.C.’s stature as the world’s leading research university of the twenty-first century; and

      WHEREAS, in the tradition of Benjamin Franklin and Vannevar Bush, he has contributed brilliantly to the nation and this state as an inventor, public servant, and visionary leader, advancing the frontiers of science through his pathbreaking explorations of human cognition, through his successful efforts to build new bridges...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 195-210)