The athletic apparel deal with Nike recently signed by University President Lee Bollinger has drawn fire from various critics, but none have as great an understanding of Bollinger”s pressures than his predecessor, James Duderstadt.
“We are not in the business of creating a commercially viable institution. We are educators. Nike is not buying a football team, it is buying a university,” Duderstadt said in an interview.
Duderstadt, who served as University president from 1988 to 1996, wrote on the issue in his first book, “Intercollegiate Athletics and the American University: A University”s President”s Perspective,” which came out in October of last year.
He has written other books on subjects ranging from higher education to nuclear reactors and is currently working on another book due out within a year.
“A University for the Twenty-First Century,” another book of Duderstadt”s released in August 2000, warns of trouble in the future of public universities as they move into the digital age.
“The University will change more in the next decade than in the past 200 years,” Duderstadt said. “There is great difficulty when leading during changing times.”
The book deals with the changes higher education institutions will have to make to keep up with the times. His next book, “The Future of the Public University,” will deal specifically with large public universities that have a diverse curriculum the kind Duderstadt said he thinks will have the most trouble adjusting.
“Schools have to strike a balance between characteristics that have served society in the past and those that will benefit it in the future,” Duderstadt said.
As a former president and a current University professor, Duderstadt has always been committed to making sure the University is not left behind in its job of meeting the needs of society.
“He got Michigan started on a program to get ready to respond to the information age and heading in the right direction,” said Philip Power, a University regent during Duderstadt”s presidency.
Duderstadt said he believes the small liberal arts colleges will have the easiest time adjusting but that he has not lost hope for the University.
“The Harvards and Oberlins will be very nimble in changing while still protecting their values. Some people think that universities won”t survive, but not me of course,” Duderstadt said.
Duderstadt said that as society changes, so will its needs, thus changing the kind of education required for success.
“The needs of society are no longer confined to four years, it is a lifetime of learning,” he said.
Duderstadt has made his commitment to the University evident in his 32 years here. As a professor, he teaches a class for graduate students to prepare them for academic careers, as well as a first-year class on the dangers of technology.
“You can”t understand what the University is about unless you teach. In addition, serving as a leader of a university gave me a much broader view,” Duderstadt said.