The straight arrow

  • Frank Gregg

    Samual Losh
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Making a mountain into a starbase.

"The university has no choice except to tilt the rewards system toward faculty and departments that can generate the most money. And that's bad."

Frank Gregg, head of the BLM under President Jimmy Carter, was a U of A professor from 1981-1992. For four of those years he directed the school of renewable natural resources. In the mid-1980s, when it appeared imminent that the Mount Graham red squirrel was going to be listed as an endangered species, Gregg met with an adminstrator and an attorney hired by the university. Gregg's advice, which he'd discussed with a senior wildlife faculty member, was that the university should make the first move:

"We said we shouldn't wait to be told it's endangered. We should just announce that we think it's endangered, and we're not going to proceed with the Mount Graham thing until we can satisfy ourselves that a realistic recovery plan can be developed. Let's announce that, and everyone will be astonished with our integrity.

"I said, 'We're going to play it absolutely straight ...'

"They thanked us, were gracious, and turned elsewhere.

"My faculty said, 'You horse's rump; we'll never get another dollar.' Which was true. But we'd never been treated generously in the past - I mean by the college of agriculture, not by the university. We were trying to run an environmentally sensitive natural resources school at the ag school. Which is an oxymoron, because modern agriculture is organized around the high-tech, scientific, chemical fertilizer production model. There are plenty of good scientists in the ag school, but the political atmosphere there is about the 1883 model. About the same as the repeating rifle ...

"(The Mount Graham controversy) wasn't a particular failing of the University of Arizona. What's going on here is typical of almost all public universities that had a serious interest in research ... The university has an imperative, and that is to maximize the generation of extramural research dollars. The university has no choice except to tilt the rewards system toward faculty and departments that can generate the most money. And that's bad.

"The administrative model that came to be admired is an authoritative top-down model, not a collegial model in which (the dean is) elected by colleagues. This worked some centuries ago. The authoritarian model is much stronger in the public universities, and perhaps especially in the land-grant universities."

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