Stanford announced today that it is dropping out of the competition to build a new engineering campus in New York City. The Board of Trustees is meeting this week, and this is probably an outcome of one of those discussions. (The alumni association dutifully informed all alumni via e-mail early this morning, so I found out before The New York Times reported on it later in the day.)
So I'm not trying to sound heretical or anything ...
But I wonder what would happen if Stanford took all that money saved from not developing a $2 billion campus in New York, and instead forged stronger relations with the UCs, starting with a certain institution right across the Bay. In these challenging times, we ought to focus our efforts on rebuilding at home. There is a lot of room for collaboration with our friends and erstwhile rivals at Berkeley, and both our institutions -- as well as the State of California -- would be the stronger for it.
Last Friday at the "Occupy the Future" rally, former Stanford president Donald Kennedy (also editor-in-chief of Science; you can be a great scientist and have a social conscience =D) called on the Stanford community to be concerned with the fate of our brethren in the UCs. "Stanford without Berkeley just wouldn't be Stanford," he said, noting that we push each other to excellence. Investing in cooperative academic ventures would be one such concrete action, helping to engender good will and sparking a lot of innovation and creativity. It would also help maintain the high quality of tertiary education in our state as the education budget is continually slashed, leaving the UCs in dire financial straits.
Some naysayers might want to highlight differences in the undergraduate culture, but let's set those issues aside for now.* The graduate schools and faculty at both institutions are world-class, and that's where much of the collaboration would be happening. I bet this kind of arrangement would be at least as fruitful as any China or New York campus for at least several decades. Furthermore, by partnering with the UCs, we would be improving conditions at home for all Californians by helping to secure the future of education in this state. It sounds a little crazy, but unconventional circumstances call for unconventional measures, and it'd be interesting if we took a chance.
And you know, if Steven Chu can do it ...
*Go Card! =P