Both IU speeches had valuable things to say on important topics

  • Oct. 7, 2013

The direction McRobbie is charting for the future of the university tops the state of the basketball program when it comes to long-range impact on Hoosiers. But this is also true: Crean’s central theme in his Wednesday night speech was one that wraps around everything McRobbie said a day before.

That theme was that no one achieves greatness on his own; that people working together toward common goals go much further than individuals who don’t develop supportive and cooperative teams.

“If you have high aspirations, you understand that you want people to go along with you,” Crean said. “Not just because that’s what you should do. Not just because that’s the golden rule, but because you can’t get there without it. You can’t get anywhere in this world without being surrounded by people who share your aspirations.”

McRobbie, too, touched on this point in both the beginning and the closing portions of his speech.

He praised the Bloomington Faculty Council in the beginning, referring to “an excellent partnership in shared governance and of a shared commitment to an effective faculty voice on major issues confronting this university.”

At the end, he said: “If the winds of change are to continue to transform Indiana University in the ways I have described, we will need the continued and ongoing support of faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends. I look forward to continuing to work with you, side by side, as we advance this great university.”

Those are points the board of trustees and the highest levels of administration must keep front of mind. No doubt some university employees don’t think they do.

In between the beginning and end of his speech, McRobbie laid out a meat-and-potatoes view of what the university is facing and what it needs to do over the next few years to be on the right path to the future. It was a substantial, savory view of the future. Nothing dessert-like about it.

He was on target in talking about the “blended” future of on-campus and online education; of the need to make higher education more affordable, partially by making sure students can complete their degrees in a timely way; and that career advising is increasingly important so that students can turn their degree into meaningful employment.

But it was equally important for McRobbie to say, as he did: “We must be vigilant, and indeed aggressive, in assuring that such measures not become an excuse to abandon the lifetime skills of critical thought, evaluation and communication that are the core of a liberal education. ... (W)hat surveys show, and what academic leaders hear every day, is that employers are looking for individuals with analytical, learning and communication skills that will last a lifetime of changing job requirements and careers -- and not just training for the next job.”

The plan to more aggressively merge liberal arts education with what is taught in professional schools will pay dividends for students, employers and society as a whole.

McRobbie also is focusing none-too-early on the symbolic importance of IU’s 200-year anniversary. The year 2020 will be a time to reflect on what the university has meant to the state, but as McRobbie noted, it will be even more important to have a strategy in place to position IU to serve its many constituencies for decades ahead -- if not for the next 200 years.

It will take many people inside and outside the university to create the vision and carry it out. “You can’t get anywhere in this world without surrounding yourself with people who share your aspirations,” Crean said. That’s true of a basketball team and of an entire university. Both will get where they want to be only when there is unity, strong support for and ownership of the ideals and direction being charted.

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.