Gerhard Casper

Former Stanford president Gerhard Casper joins us to discuss his new book “The Winds of Freedom,” a collection of his speeches on the biggest challenges facing higher education. Casper was president of Stanford at a tumultuous time, and the speeches and commentary in his book explore academic freedom, campus diversity and the role of a research university in society and politics.

Former Stanford President on Challenges Facing Higher Education 27 August,2014forum

Gerhard Casper, former president of Stanford University, senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford and author of "The Winds of Freedom: Addressing Challenges to the University"

  • ES Trader

    Higher education is a idealistic goal for all societies but just as pro sports are not the career path for everyone.

    Too many children of non college educated parents encouraged them to get a college education to “better their lives”. Too many were not college material, either dropped out or received degrees only to discover that they were still headed for traditionally non degree careers.

    Too many employers today now require a bachelor’s for positions in the 70’s, 80’s & even 90’s.

    The economic effect was escalating tuition, books, for profit education and debt.

    John Sperling died recently.

    His creation originally served a special niche but the eventual evolution is clear.

    Supply and demand applies to higher education as it does to stock prices and real estate. Price or value diminishes, increases accordingly.

  • Lance

    I would like to hear his opinion on the JSTOR issue.

    I’ll also add, how does he feel about the constant pressure to publish multiple times every year.

  • Vic Monae

    Higher education is unfortunately still continuing the tradition of elitism and authoritarianism in our lives. High School or Junior College graduates needing remedial math and remedial English to enter universities are a symptom of the lack of understanding of what education is really for. I frankly think college is a waste of time if you don’t know how to manage your checkbook, how to find a mate, how to handle life and death, how to handle just the basics.

  • Vic Monae

    And our schools don’t teach, or approach these things

  • Ben Rawner

    If Stanford runs on billions a year, how come the students have to pay so much?
    What was your guests biggest challenge at the University now and in the future?

    • Another Mike

      Stanford was in fact tuition-free at the outset. That was the only way a poor orphan like Herbert Hoover could afford to go there.

  • Scott

    You touched on the importance of faculty and researchers teaching in addition to other work, are there methods in place for providing training for academics who have never taught in a classroom before? I am currently a student at a large university and I have found myself in lectures where, while the teacher may be an expert in their field, they do not understand how to communicate the information in a clear manner. Is this training a possibility and how do you get esteemed faculty to put aside their pride and learn how to teach?

  • Bob

    Listening to Caspar complain about the government hurdles and regulations that have hampered operations at Stanford is like listening to the rich business folks who graduated from Stanford complain about the government while sucking at the government trough.

    A quick web search reveals this: The bulk of the school’s funding came from the federal government. Stanford took in nearly $72 million from the Department of Defense and $445 million from HHS, 11th most in the nation. It additionally ranked as a top 15 school in procuring funding from NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

    In low level and high level interactions, all investments come with strings, it’s maddening to hear the most privileged complain about this basic human construct!

  • Chris OConnell

    Regarding the University of Illinois case of Professor Salaita, can we all agree that if his target was Palestinians and Hamas, instead of Israel and Netanyahu, using the same words, he would not have had his teaching offer revoked? There is no doubt about this.

    Casper talked about professionalism in the classroom in response to the question, but there are no allegations of impropriety here. Salaita’s “unprofessionalism” was on Twitter, a venue that is anathema to professionalism.

    • ES Trader

      there u go again with your anti Semitic empty rhetoric and reverse racism

    • Whamadoodle

      Well I do feel that you can make an argument that someone’s Twitter feed is their personal business.

      But as to “Can we all agree… he would not have had his teaching offer revoked”? Well–no, we can’t all agree on that. Because (as I HOPE any university-educated person would agree) hypotheses need to be tested, not assumed.

      If you can quantify “such and such many teaching offers were revoked for criticizing this side, but only such and such many for criticizing the other,” then you’ll have demonstrated that “there is no doubt about this.”

  • Doug

    What responsibility does Stanford have to review the science conducted by its researchers, specifically the ethical considerations as well as the societal implications of the work? One example is the recent work in Dr. Christina Smolke’s group to design yeast to synthesize opiates, thereby allowing future production of molecules as heroin as simple as brewing a beer. Is Stanford interested in developing opiates that the masses can afford?

  • LF

    The caller who criticized Stanford for not stopping the Iraq invasion should ask why the administration was voted into office again in 2004. In a democracy voters are more responsible for their governments missteps and abuses of power than any University.

  • Ben Rawner

    What does your guest think about the move towards online education partially And wholly?

    • Greg Coladonato

      Ben, I am very interested in this question as well, especially as it relates to the shockingly high price tag at the typical “ranked” university. I recently looked through the Forbes Top Colleges List ( and was amazed how uniformly expensive almost all the schools were. Only one school in the Top 100 cost less than $40k (it was BYU).

      How could we go about creating a new, excellent university, with the “austere” perspective on amenities that today’s guest espoused, and leveraging online resources to keep the price down in the $10k range?

      • Another Mike

        Get more people to enter the Jesuit order. They are the only profs who would work for 1/4 of the current salaries.

        Teaching is labor intensive. Most of the expense is salaries.

  • Cathy Edmondson

    Regarding popular majors excluding humanities, I have this to add: our son begins his freshman year in a few weeks, to the tune of more than $40,000/year. We will take on considerable debt during his university experience, as will he. At prices like this, it reduces the education to being a means to an end. His major? Business.

    • Greg Coladonato

      Cathy, if your son’s tuition were one half or one quarter of what it is, would his choice of major been different?

      • Cathy Edmondson

        Yes, highly likely. His real passion projects lie in digital filmmaking, photography, and similar arts. He does have an abiding interest in following a business major as well, but is making a practical choice. high school counselors are pushing away from arts in favor of perceived money making majors.

        • Peter

          Some of the Cal State universities have programs in arts such as filmmaking and photography, and tuition and fees there run around $7,000/year — for California residents, that is. Maybe up to 3x as much for out-of-state residents, but nowhere near $40,000/year, and of course residents of other states pay at the in-state rates in their own states. Obviously there is a choice in going to such an expensive university, and I wonder if that is also being pushed by the high-school counselors.

          • Cathy Edmondson

            Add to that the required cost of room and board and fees and you’re pushing 30-40 k, and the cs system has no $ to offset costs, except for athletes, of course. Meanwhile, this isn’t Ivy League, or UC . By the way, our research doesn’t bear out $7000/year, it shows up more like $18,000.

          • Peter

            Am I misreading this CSU website that says tuition & fees are around $7,000/year?
            The site does say that total costs may run up to $25,000/year if you include room and board, transportation, and misc. personal expenses, but those are things you have to pay for no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re in school or not.

          • Strandwolf

            Freshman and Sophomore years could be accomplished at a community college. I put in 4 years at UC Berkeley and also took classes at Stanford but my favorite teachers and learning experiences took place at DeAnza and Foothill. At the time the cost per unit was $13.

  • Another Mike

    The biggest differences in college costs since I was an undergrad are housing, amenities, and IT. We did not expect to be able to stream HD video in my day, or have 24/7 access to an elliptical machine. And dorm rooms used to be more like a closet than what they have now.

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