Hans Mark Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

    Universities, and the Changing International Environment: Conversation with 
    Hans Mark, Chancellor of the University of Texas System; 3/15/88 by 
    Harry Kreisler

Page 3 of 7

Governing a Public University

In a role like yours, you obviously wind up dealing a lot with the legislature. [University of California] President Gardner obviously has this problem, too. What is most important in getting legislatures on board? The problem may be quite apparent within the scientific community, but the political dialogue you have to engage in must be very important in a role such as yours.

There are three points on which you can influence the legislative process. One is that most people in the legislature have children in the public universities of this state and so they have a very good pipeline into what's going on, and you need to make the case with the legislature to support higher education because that is the basic function, the education of the group that's coming up.

There is a new thing that has come in lately which is outside of that eighteen- to twenty-two-year-old group, and that is that a lot of our campuses now, especially in urban areas, target people who are not in that group anymore, people who are working part time or full time and who may be older. For example, UT Austin, which is our main campus, is very much like Berkeley; it's oriented around the eighteen- to twenty-two-year-olds. UT Dallas has 7,000 students of whom very very few are between eighteen and twenty-two. The average age of the students there is well over thirty. These are people who work in industry in the North Dallas area who are, for one reason or another, continuing their education in business or engineering or other things like that, and the university has to respond by providing those public services.

That's somewhat more difficult to explain to the legislature, because most of those folks are in the mold of the eighteen- to twenty-two-year-old, and when you say you need to build buildings for people who are only going to go to school at night, the first question is "What are you going to do with them in the daytime?" So I think that is a new factor.

Second, of course, is the question of economic development. The university is very clearly an agent for the development of new industries, bringing other industries into the community and into the state. So you have to have examples, you have to be able to show where an industry located in town or in the state because the university was there. If you look at the citing criteria that most corporations develop for making location decisions, very often, if not always, an important criterion is the presence of a good university.

We just had, three months ago, a business of enticing SEMATECH to come to Texas -- that's a new electronics consortium -- and first on their list of priorities was that they wanted to be near a world-class university and they wanted to draw on the talents. That's the major reason. The second reason is that if you bring in employees that are active technically or scientifically, then they want to partake of what's at the university and they want to send their children there. So economic development is a second big factor.

The third one, and this is particularly important in Texas -- also in California, but interestingly enough, not as important. The third is that public universities are the training ground for the high-level leadership in the state. It's interesting that Texas is different from most other states in that the economic and the political elite in Texas send their kids to the state university. That's reflected, for instance, in the following statistic: Texas has twenty-nine representatives in Congress, two senators and twenty-seven members of the House. Fifteen attended the University of Texas. It's the highest fraction of any state delegation that went to the state university. You have Lloyd Benson, who is clearly one of the distinguished senior senators; you've got Phil Gramm, who is an Aggie professor, Texas A&M professor and a product of a public university system in Georgia, author of the Gramm-Rudman Act; you have Speaker Wright, who is a graduate of the University of Texas and a distinguished alumnus; you have Jake Pickle, who's a senior member of Ways and Means, distinguished alumnus graduate of the university; Bill Archer -- on and on and on. That is well known and well understood, and is a very strong point. It is a point that everyone understands, because not one of these fifteen people studied science or engineering. They were all in the humanities, the fine arts, law, business, all those things that 85 percent of the students in a university actually study.

So that's how we make our case, education of the eighteen- to twenty-two-year-olds and the extension there of economic development through the creation of new knowledge, which is research and creation of leadership.

In this kind of environment, do you have to worry a lot about compromising the integrity of research? I guess my point is that there is an "ivory tower" notion of the university which many faculty may have; and then in your second category, economic development, you're talking about new extramural pressures. How do you mediate those?

My view of that is very, very simple and that is that we, the management of the university, do not support any corporate efforts unless there is someone on the faculty who takes the lead. That is, our job is to help the faculty do things. In the case of SEMATECH, for instance, we had two professors, Ben Streetman and Al Tash, both professors of electrical engineering, both very distinguished folks, one of them is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. They were the leaders and they came to the administration and said, "Help us," and we said, "This looks like a good thing, so we'll go and help." Obviously, in the area of economic development, the administration cannot go and say, "We're going to develop X"; it has to wait until somebody on the faculty comes and says, "This would be a good thing for Texas (or for Austin and so on); we're ready to do something, let's all go." That's how it happens.

And that's how you maintain a world-class status.


Next page: Research and Development

© Copyright 2002, Regents of the University of California