The University Can Do It All!

by George Leef

That’s the gist of the new book Engines of Innovation by UNC chancellor Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein, UNC’s “entrepreneur in residence.”

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin evaluates the book and is not much impressed. Where the authors see a superhighway to the future, he sees a meandering, muddy path to mission creep.

I haven’t read the book yet, but I think I know what Thorp and Buckstein miss: If decision makers don’t stand to bear the cost when they’re wrong, they’ll frequently make bad decisions that waste resources. Because universities are overwhelmingly non-profit entities, the sort of idealistic, dreamy mindset that dominates in government policy is also dominant in academe. Sure we’ll get some good ideas and innovations out of our universities, but we should also expect a lot of bad ideas and failed innovations.