An Improbable Life

An Improbable Life

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Columbia University began the second half of the twentieth century in decline, bottoming out with the student riots of 1968. Yet by the close of the century, the institution had regained its stature as one of the greatest universities in the world. According to the New York Times, a€œIf any one person is responsible for Columbiaa€™s recovery, it is surely Michael Sovern.a€ In this memoir, Sovern, who served as the universitya€™s president from 1980 to 1993, recounts his sixty-year involvement with the institution, as well as his experiences growing up poor in the South Bronx and attending Columbia. Sovern addresses key debates in academia, such as how to make college available to all, whether affirmative action is fair, whether great researchers are paid too much and valuable teachers too little, what are the strengths and weaknesses of lifetime tenure, and what is the governmenta€™s responsibility for funding universities. A labor-law specialist, Sovern also discusses his personal and professional accomplishments off campus, particularly his work to compensate victims of racial exploitation and his recommendations as chairman of the Commission on Integrity in Government.The potential uses of the symbiotic relationship between universities and government were not lost on some wise observers. ... of benefits, including the payment of tuition and living expenses of any military veteran who wished to attend college. ... the state universitiesa€”the University of California at Berkeley is a prominent examplea€”were as good as the great Ivy League institutions. ... Public universities were supported with taxpayer dollars, and students paid nominal fees to attend.

Title:An Improbable Life
Author: Michael I. Sovern
Publisher:Columbia University Press - 2014-02-25

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