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Perils Facing Higher Education Focus of Talk

Perils Facing Higher Education Focus of Talk

Neil Smelser, a professor emeritus of sociology at UC Berkeley, will give prestigious lecture Feb. 14 about perfect storm of factors threatening higher education

(December 16, 2011)

Neil SmelserEnlarge

Neil Smelser

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Neil Smelser, one of the most distinguished professors in the University of California system, will give a lecture Feb. 14 at UC Riverside about perils facing higher education.

Smelser is a professor emeritus of sociology at UC Berkeley and one of 38 professors in the UC system to be named a university professor since the title was created in 1960.

Smelser is calling his talk “Perils for Higher Education: Crisis or Continuity?" It will address a perfect storm of factors threatening higher education. These include: budgetary starvation, accountability, and governance; commercialization; on-line instruction and the rise of the for-profits; non-tenured and part-time faculty; and access, inequalities, and diversity.

“Neil Smelser is a legendary teacher and thinker. His administrative career as an advisor to UC presidents is nearly as legendary,” said Steven Brint, UCR Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, a professor of sociology and one of Smelser’s former students. “I am looking forward to a discussion of an issue that is of great importance to the future of our country.”

The lecture is the last of three Clark Kerr lectures on the future of higher education. Smelser will give all three lectures at UC Berkeley in January and February before presenting the third lecture again at 4 p.m. Feb. 14 in room 302 of Highlander Union Building at UC Riverside.

The Clark Kerr Lectures series honors Clark Kerr, who served as president of the University of California from 1958 to 1967. He spearheaded the negotiation of California's Master Plan for Higher Education, a 1960 document that endures to this day and is considered a model plan by many states and other nations.

This is fifth installment of The Clark Kerr Lectures, which were started in 2003. It is the first time UC Riverside has hosted one of the lectures.

Past lecturers have been: Harold Shapiro, president emeritus of Princeton University and the University of Michigan; Chuck Vest, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Donald Kennedy, president emeritus of Stanford University; and Hanna Holborn Gray, former president of the University of Chicago.

Smelser’s research has focused on what he calls the "macroscopic social structural level" of social life, including economic sociology, social change, social movements, and the sociology of education. His most recent book, published by the University of California Press in 2010, is “Reflections on the University of California: From the Free Speech Movement to the Global University.”

Smelser is a former president of the American Sociological Association, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the American Philosophical Society. He joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1958 and has authored eighteen books, including “Theory of Collective Behavior” - a classic in the field of social movement studies.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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