UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III takes your questions.
Q. Considering that Time magazine named The Protestor as its 2011 Person of the Year and knowing your own active involvement in the civil rights movement, what are your thoughts on the amount of violent opposition present-day protesters are facing across the nation?
— Joseph Cooper IV ’08, English
A. People have the right to protest. I have to remind people about that at times. America was built out of protest. If we had not protested, we would not have America.
At the same time, a number of institutions have not known how to be effective in responding to these protests.
People tend to protest out of frustration, when they feel that the regular process used for change is not effective. At the national level, people are frustrated by the widening gap between the rich and the rest of America. What’s challenging is that people don’t know how to change the direction in which the country is moving.
What some may not know is that it’s not just students or young people who are frustrated by that widening gap. When I talk to Nobel laureates in economics, I hear them raising the same concerns about the future of America. And some of the wealthiest donors we have also express those concerns, and are very generous in giving gifts. When you listen to the Gates family, for instance, they understand that there is a certain level of responsibility that you have when you have that much money.
Unfortunately, some people don’t feel that way. They get wealthy and they think: “Wow, I just did this on my own.”
The most important point is how we use these opportunities to have robust conversations on campuses as to why these things are happening and about the deeper meaning of things – whether it’s the role of protest in society or what is happening in the economy. How do we prepare students to be responsible citizens as they think about what role they may play in all this?
Q. You’ve chosen to use the $500,000 Centennial Academic Leadership Award that you received in November from the Carnegie Corporation to create the Hrabowski Fund for Academic Innovation at UMBC. Will specific initiatives receive immediate assistance? How will faculty, staff and students be encouraged to further these goals?
— Richard Byrne ’86, English
A. The award is the seed money for a much larger fund that will focus on innovation in teaching and learning and entrepreneurship. I expect that we will be raising money over the next few years. We’re already getting contributions. It will help us keep taking more steps in the direction for which UMBC is becoming known as a place for innovation in teaching and in learning.
There will also be a university-wide competition established this semester for departments to look specifically at courses where they need to redesign to help students more actively engage with the subject matter. Because we also tie innovation to entrepreneurship at UMBC, we want to see what comes out of the campus community. It will be a chance for people to think broadly about the possibilities.
Have a question for Dr. Hrabowski? Please visit retrievernet.umbc.edu/askthepresident