It is recognized that a campus is a “community” where networks are established and other externalities accrue to those who matriculate and enter the Ivory Tower. On the other hand, the rise in competency-based programs, where students are increasingly required to exhibit mastery of materials beyond articulating what they can recall from their text materials and faculty presentations, mitigates or tempers the ability to leverage social networks against demonstrable skills.
Yet, in 2015 United States universities received 1.2 billion dollars directly in support of campus athletics at a time when the core of the university, its research and education functions not only are under funded but are even being defunded. Costs are rising for the academic core and many students are being obligated to assume significant and unforgiveable debt to complete academic certifications, often in areas where the fiscal compensation makes the ability to repay onerous. As Hamlet says in the eponymous Shakespearean play, “The time is out of joint.”
While the irony is seen and the pain is felt, it may be time to reflect, or as Wordsworth said in his “Ode to Immortality”, “ We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind”. In the Christensen model of disruptive innovation, the present industry tends to want to preserve its past while the nascent disruptive alternatives struggle to come into being. And thus it is with the Ivory Tower. This does not signal the demise of the past/present but rather the present evolves as it adopts and adapts to the emergent.
It is said that the two oldest entities are The Church and universities. While The Church has seen substantive changes over the years, the basic institution remains intact. Universities on the other hand seem to conform more to the disruptive models suggested by Clayton Christensen.
With the arrival of the Internet, institutions in click and brick space are emerging and are challenging the extant model of the Ivory Tower in all areas from basic knowledge creation and transmission to its larger functions within society. The sensibility of the disruptive innovation model seems to hold. Universities, as they exist today, evolved from their founding about 1000 years ago, and for the most part, will exist in the future. But they will be significantly changed, informed by the emergent competitive paths that effectively meet the immediate and long term needs of the society in which they are imbedded.
In the past, these Ivory Towers might be considered as points of knowledge creation and concentration in a darkened plain, a source to attract seekers of such learning along an arduous path to arrive and access that knowledge. Over time ICT, information/communication technologies, have evolved making it easier to access knowledge but not with the same urgency to travel to a “Tower”. Simultaneously, scholars and researchers, in the past dispersed, came together at these centers; yet, today, except for the necessity of physical resources, that need has changed, also, but in ways different from the past. In many research driven disciplines, faculty collegiality around singular research is greater across institutions than with the faculty next door.