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In light of recent national and international events, REED magazine invited alumni, faculty members, and students to share their thoughts about the future.

crescent moon pictureReversing environmental policies
By Richard Cellarius ’58

The past year saw a significant reversal of U.S. governmental policy in the environmental arena despite the results of poll after poll showing that the American public strongly supports environmental protection policies. The centerpiece issue is energy and related concerns: America’s compulsive addiction to foreign oil; the effect of consumption of fossil fuels on global warming and climate change; energy-related air pollution—including transboundary and intercontinental spread of pollutants—and resultant health risks from power plants, inefficient automobiles, and changing atmospheric chemistry; and energy development proposals in the Rocky Mountain West and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At this writing, it is too soon to say how the energy battles in the Congress will come out, but environmental organizations will be lobbying as strongly as the energy lobby, with significantly smaller resources but stronger public support for renewable energy and greater energy efficiency.

A major event in 2002 will be the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, next August. It follows the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or "Earth Summit" (Rio de Janeiro, 1992). The principal product of the Rio conference was “Agenda 21,” a program of action for global sustainable development in the 21st century. A major focus of international environmental concerns will be the extent to which corporate globalization sets and controls the agenda for the meeting in contrast to implementation of Agenda 21’s concept of environmentally sustainable development and development assistance.

Another issue will be the basic tenets of civil society that people must have free access to information if they are to participate intelligently in their government and that individuals have the right to speak and act to protect the environment in which they live and work—rights that are under attack by governments and corporations around the world.

There have been many signs in 2001, such as the protests at the meetings on the Free Trade Area of the Americas and World Trade Organization and the scheduling of the WTO meeting in isolated Qatar, that the international movement of citizens against globalization and for human rights is gaining strength and effectiveness. WSSD will be a watershed event in this arena.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, will continue to shape U.S. policies in two major environmental areas. First, the federal budget’s focus on the military and “homeland security” will drain needed resources from federal and state natural resource protection agencies. Second, it appears that terrorism threats and security will continue to dominate public policy and debate and distract public attention from the never-ending attempts to use American and global resources for economic gain at the cost of ecological sustainability. Again, these are both areas that will occupy the attention of the nation’s major environmental protection organizations, who will be promoting the idea that environmental protection — environmental security for America the Beautiful — is a fundamental component of national security. small bullet

Richard Cellarius ’58 is vice president for international affairs at the Sierra Club and emeritus faculty member at Evergreen State College.

Living though a bad year, reliving the past
By Victor A. Friedman ’70

After the events in September, I received sympathy messages from Muslim colleagues (Bosnians, Kosovars, and Turks) and “now you know what it’s like, too” messages from Serbian and Greek colleagues. It had already been a bad year.

On February 16 a Macedonian news team was kidnapped by armed ethnic Albanians in Tanushevtsi, a village in Macedonia near the Kosovo border, where I had been when I worked for the UN in 1994. In less than a month Macedonia was at war. By the end of May, the idea of partition — the so-called “realist” solution, despite empirical evidence that partition solves nothing—had gone from the conference rooms of Washington, D.C., to the front pages of the media in Macedonia. By the time a truce was signed in August, a country of two million had 140,000 displaced persons.

The Macedonian government tried to tie its war with the Albanian insurgents (whom they and, at times, have branded “terrorists”) to the “War on Terrorism,” at which local U.S. representatives in Macedonia expressed outrage.

I spent a summer in Brezhnev’s Russia after my junior year at Reed, and I see some chilling similarities here: the ludicrous arbitrariness of airport security (such as the confiscation of an empty milk bottle as a “potential weapon”), vapid newspaper headlines (“Bush Urges Nation To Be Vigilant”), reports of his high approval ratings, the doublespeak way in which the CIA was praised while having obviously failed in its primary mission, the rapidity with which some politicians called for restrictions on civil rights, the disturbing attack on American academe titled Defending Civilization, sponsored by a Washington-based group calling itself the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

The events of September 11 have resulted in a shift of interest eastward, but continued attention will depend on whether or not the current focus can produce more violence to attract news coverage. Meanwhile, the Greeks are still blocking international recognition of Macedonia under its constitutional name, and in Macedonia rumors of an ethnic Albanian spring offensive are being denied while 25 percent of the population is living below the poverty line (defined as $1.50 per day). I see no reason for optimism. small bullet

Victor A. Friedman ’70 is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor and Chair, department of Slavic languages and literatures, at the University of Chicago.

Leading America’s colleges into an era of service
By Neal Johnson ’75

The challenges facing American higher education are as great today as at any time in our history.

Economic, technological, and demographic changes — and evolving views of the role public and private colleges and universities should play in promoting the common good — are forging new levels of competition and collaboration between these institutions and the local, state, national, and global communities of which they are a part.

Just this past year, for example, these institutions were buffeted by an economic downturn more serious than the early ’90s recession. But in contrast to that slump, a number of states’ higher education systems have been experiencing a double-whammy of sharply rising enrollments — especially in the fast-growing West and Southwest. At the same time, these institutions, the nation — and the world — have been gripped by new uncertainties driven by the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, and their aftermath.

Policymakers and the public expect the most of urban campuses. They are supposed to “save public schools, clean up pollution, jump-start new technologies, deliver improved health care, diversify the arts and culture, and provide the engine for economic growth,” argues Gregory Jay, director of the Cultures and Communities Program at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. “And, oh, by the way,” Jay adds, “educate students from every background, age group, and preparation level through dozens of degree programs using all media at all hours of the day and night.”

Are this country’s colleges and universities ready to navigate these storms — as well as waters yet uncharted?

An encouraging sign: schools and systems in a number of states from Kentucky to North Dakota have begun to move aggressively to partner with policymakers and the business community to craft a shared agenda — to pin down precisely how higher education can contribute to statewide policy goals.

After three years during which Texas colleges and universities built the case for change, last year the state’s legislature adopted a comprehensive investment package. The effort included millions of new dollars for a public awareness campaign to promote the value of higher education, student grants, and research and teaching programs. At the same time the state more closely aligned its high school curriculum with college-readiness recommendations from the postsecondary sector.

Just last January I was honored to help facilitate the Mississippi Leadership Summit on Higher Education. The summit was the capstone to an agenda-setting process led by Governor Ronnie Musgrove and Aubrey Patterson, chairman and CEO of BancorpSouth. A steering committee representing the top leadership of public and private higher education, the legislature, and the business community worked for more than a year to develop a blueprint for jumpstarting the state’s struggling educational and economic performance. “This is a great start,” said the summit’s keynote speaker, former Netscape president and CEO Jim Barksdale. “But we’re going to need a lot of leadership to accomplish these noble goals.”

In Oregon and other states there has been strong leadership from system chancellors, presidents, and public-spirited trustees from the private sector — buttressed by service learning initiatives at Reed and other private institutions — that have laid a solid foundation for breakthrough contributions to come. As a native Northwesterner, I am quite hopeful that a new generation of city, county, and state leaders, in partnership with new and emerging public and private higher education leaders, will forge a coalition that will open the doors — and rewards — of world-class higher education to all of Oregon’s citizens.

A rising chorus of voices argues that the nation has a historic opportunity to harness the surge of patriotism and new sense of connection between Americans and their public institutions in support of a new commitment to public service. Judith Ramaley, former president of Portland State University, has gone so far as to suggest that the traditional categories of teaching, research, and service should be recast into learning, discovery, and engagement.

Who knows? Perhaps this century — or even this decade — could witness a truly revolutionary new system of public and corporate incentives designed to usher in a new era of service. small bullet

Neal Johnson ’75 is deputy executive director of the Center for Public Higher Education Trusteeship and Governance at the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and edits the web-based news bulletin centerforgovernance.net.

Educating about multiculturalism
By Skip Bassford ’64

I grew up in the mountains of southern Oregon and there learned the values of rugged individualism and of neighborliness. So it was natural that from my time at Reed onward through my career as a philosopher I would struggle with reconciling Isaiah Berlin's two concepts of liberty. On the one hand, individuals have the right to be free from government interference. On the other hand, government has the obligation to provide individuals with a social safety net sufficient for them to develop their human potential.

The conundrum became more complex in Canada (where I now live), which is the world's most ethnically diverse country. In Toronto more than half the population was not born in Canada, and there are 80 different first languages. In adopting an official multiculturalism, and embedding it into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada has opted for the belief that the maintenance of significant cultural diversity within a single nation state can enrich the lives of all citizens. Of course this is only possible if, to use David Hume's term, the sympathy we feel for friends and neighbors can be extended to those who lead very different lives from us. In Canada this has been achieved, at least to a significant degree, by massive social programs, including education at all levels.

In many ways the world has come to be the same. At the same time, one doesn't have to look far to see that there are many who are threatened economically or culturally by globalization, and whose sense of self is warped and diminished in response. We in North America now know intimately how violent and grotesque their reaction can be. And while self-protection is a moral imperative, so too is it crucial that we do our part to alleviate the root causes.

This year's events bring home to the world the need for a proper multiculturalism, as we have found in Canada. In higher education we must play a role by ensuring that our students develop a critical understanding of the individual, of culture, and of political society. This is a plea for ongoing and intensified liberal arts education as a significant component of all undergraduate education. But it is also a plea that that liberal arts education be relevant. Our students need skills that will allow them to improve their economic lot. At the university where I am president, students are most interested in work, and we must show them the relevance of a liberal education to that work. We in the liberal arts must recognize that the critical perspective we seek to instill should inform all aspects of our students' lives, both personal and professional.

And we shall have to keep our fingers crossed. small bullet

Skip Bassford ’64 has been president of the University College of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Canada, since 1988. He researches and teaches medical ethics, political theory, and the philosophy of law.

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