Tuesday, November 3, 2009

To the Gould Commission, from Michael Montoya

Sent October 2009

Dear Commissioners,

Thanks for agreeing to serve and for allowing the opportunity to comment.
I have one overriding comment that stems from my research and teaching
across disciplines.

Students increasingly approach their degrees as means to a prescribed end.
I see this in social and natural sciences, medicine, law, engineering and
less so in humanities. The pressures for students to be so oriented are
immense. However, I have found that only the top 1% of those following a
prescribed professional path, adequately imagine their discipline, their
chosen field, their research question, as part of a larger body of
intellectual pursuits. Instead, they learn how to think based upon the
perceived - often accurately so - dictates of their aspired to profession.

The same could be said of research strategies whose horizon are simply the
next grant or next publication. The risks faculty take are few, because we
can ill afford it. Our reward structures are based upon market forces for
certain kinds of knowledge.

While we could cater to this 'market demand' in each of the 5 key areas of
the future UC, I submit that we do a disservice to our state when we allow
market forces to shape what education and research have become.

My vision, and I hope to persuade here, is that education and research are
inherently risky, curiosity driven endeavors. Only under these
circumstances, structurally supported, can students be exposed to and
appreciate the breadth and depth of human intellectual, social, cultural
genius. And only under conditions of risky curiosity driven pursuits, can
innovation spring.

I am deeply saddened to encounter students and colleagues who cannot argue
the merits and flaws of their field of study with any conviction, let
alone informed by philosophical, historical, social or empirical
connection to debates in fields other than their own. This is not

The future of UC requires that the professorate and students swim in a
soup of ideas untethered to a return on investment (ROI) strategy. If we
cannot free ourselves from this intellectual straitjacket, we can never
hope to create imaginative, bold, innovative ideas and problem solutions
to the scale and scope to which our premier UC campuses aspire.

Michael J Montoya
Anthropology, Chicano/Latino Studies
Public Health
Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community