University leaders who politicize intention and talk about public benefit and public purpose as primary mission show a complete lack of understanding of institutions learning in a free market. We exist to tirelessly serve students.
Here is an inconvenient truth:
I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.
I remember seeing an interview with a bluegrass player who was asked how he practiced to be able to play such lightning-fast runs. He replied that he didn’t practice for speed. He practiced for precision. Speed just happened as a consequence of being able to put each note exactly where it belonged.
Universities provide great benefits to society. But these benefits occur as a consequence of the effect universities have on their students, not through direct action. Society benefits when citizens are able to critically evaluate the world around them, to reason clearly, to communicate ideas effectively and to see beyond the immediate gratification of their wants.