Higher Ed Behind Close Doors

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

The Detroit Free Press has sued the University of Michigan over the closed meetings it holds regularly. Our local paper’s coverage of that story indicated that MSU is similarly culpable of this violation, claiming “Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees also regularly meets in what amounts to private sessions.”

For democracy to fulfill it’s ideal, decisions must be made with full information. Excluding information or the ability to raise critical points or questions during the decision-making process makes attaining that ideal unlikely.

My decision to run for the MSU Board of Trustees is in significant part a response to redirecting higher education to help the human family achieve the ideal of democracy. John Hannah, MSU’s longest serving president, spoke to that role for education in 1961 at a Washington conference on education.

Indelibly etched in the monument to him that stands outside of MSU’s Administration Building are these words:

” If there is one thing educators agree on, it is that the fundamental purpose of education is to prepare  good citizens.”

Professor Eric Gould has argued in his award winning book The University in a Corporate Culture that a democratic education must do three things:

First, it must be an education for democracy, for the greater good of a just society — but it      cannot assume that society is, a priori, just. Second, it must argue for its means as well as its ends. It must derive from the history of ideas, from long-standing democratic values and practices which include the ability to argue and critique but also to tolerate ambiguity. And third, it must participate in the democratic social process, displaying not only moral preference for recognizing the rights of others and accepting them, too, but for encouraging argument and cultural critique. In short a university education is a democratic education because it mediates liberal democracy and the cultural contradictions of capitalism.

(as cited in Henry Giroux, The University in Chains, 2007, p.201)

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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