BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER: Social Responsibilities of the Modern University by Derek Bok

BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER: Social Responsibilities of the Modern University

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Well, not that far beyond the ivory tower: despite his insistence that Academe is much more closely bound to the world than, say, before World War II, Harvard's President Bok still affirms ""institutional neutrality"" and the need to refrain from concerted political action (unless basic democratic rights or academic freedom are threatened). This series of broad policy statements shows Bok to be the most moderate of liberals, well-informed, thoughtful, and better on legal than on ethical questions--not surprisingly for an erstwhile law school dean. Bok has apparently spent a lot of time arguing with radical activists in the campus community: his cautious, pragmatic answers to their complaints, expressed or alluded to here, take up much of the text. Thus he argues against selling the university's stock in ""bad"" companies, because to be consistent you'd have to check the record of every corporation you invest in (few of which have completely clean hands), and you can exert more leverage in any case by staying on as a stockholder. Bok likewise defends the university's taking gifts from slightly tainted sources. (Apropos, perhaps, of the ties between certain Southern schools and the tobacco industry, Bok notes somewhat disingenuously: ""it is not self-evident that a company has done wrong to manufacture cigarettes for the use of those who decide to smoke despite the dangers to their health."") On other issues, Bok delivers a lucid defense of preferential admissions for minority students; examines the perils of university investment in high technology; discusses economic tensions between town and gown (advocating state aid to offset municipal losses from tax-free college real estate); plumps for courses to sharpen student moral awareness; etc. Bok's prose is fluent and bland; he avoids particular cases and never gives offense. Anyone interested in university life will find him a cogent, if hardly scintillating, spokesman for a sort of Ivy League meliorism.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press