September 3, 2004


Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost E. Thomas Sullivan
234 Morrill Hall
University of Minnesota
100 Church St. S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Professor Marvin Marshak
Chair, Faculty Consultative Committee
School of Physics and Astronomy
148 Physics
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Dear Professor Marshak and Provost Sullivan:

The document, “A lighthouse built on a rock-solid foundation lighting the way for a bright future – The University of Minnesota,” is enclosed. This report has the goal of improving our ability to communicate the basic value of the University of Minnesota to Minnesotans and others. The explanation of the role of the University herein is done without using quantitative measures related to the number of students, number of faculty and staff, number of patents, dollars in grants, etc. It reflects the Einstein quote: “Not everything that matters can be counted, and not everything that can be counted matters.” We want you to know that our discussions that formed the basis of this report were absolutely enjoyable; our hope is that the citizens of Minnesota, the legislature, and the staff of the University will be uplifted and informed by this document, and that the recommendations will form the basis for the future of the University of Minnesota.

The committee - composed of Regents’ Professors, McKnight Distinguished Professors, and members of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers - was called the Instrumentalization Task Force (ITF). The term “instrumentalization” refers to the doctrine that ideas are instruments of action and that their usefulness determines their truth. The charge letter from Dan Feeney, Chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee, and Christine Maziar, Executive Vice President and Provost, stated “What we mean by ‘instrumentalization’ is to ask about the developing understandings of the roles and uses of the University within the various constituencies that make up the University community and its larger public. The University is seen, variously, as the economic engine of the state, a source of new discoveries (e.g., in the life and physical sciences, engineering, etc.), a provider of health care for both humans and animals, a source of expertise and assistance for agriculture, business and corporations, state agencies, local governments, nonprofits and other private and public sector enterprises, a provider of employees, an entertainer of the public through intercollegiate athletics and arts performances, a developer of human capital and potential, the educator of an informed and engaged citizenry and so on. To what extent are these uses and roles appropriate? How well is their value understood and articulated. To what extent is the value of other roles and purposes of the University poorly understood, articulated and valued?”

Although the report is based on this concept, we do not use the term “instrumentalization” in the report because its precise interpretation is not commonly known. A central theme in the report is the value of setting goals of the University in terms of “public goods” - whether in the form of information, products, or human capital. The lighthouse metaphor is used throughout the report to emphasize that a public good, like the light of the lighthouse, is available to everyone and cannot be hoarded by any one group.

Dan Feeney and Christine Maziar, in March, 2003, asked us to consider:


We believe the above questions are addressed in the enclosed document – written in a manner that we hope will entice many to become engaged. We hope our report is useful to you and others in demonstrating that a great State does not exist without a great University and vice versa. How fortunate we are to have both!

I and the members of the task force would be glad to meet with you to discuss the report, if you wish.

Yours sincerely,

Ronald L. Phillips, Chair
For the task force: Professors Bert Ahern, Patricia Bauer, David Bernlohr, Sara Evans, Al Michael, and Nelson Rhodus

cc: President Robert H. Bruininks


Go to the Lighthouse Report