In the teeth of the forces that buffet them, private universities must assert again what they are: how they embody the principle of collaborative effort, how they are built of affiliations, of courses and appointments and research efforts and values. They must communicate to others their nature, which is their connectedness within and their complex connections without. They must assert their fragility and toughness, their combination of susceptibility to every seismic quiver in the society and their insistence that they determine for themselves what quality is and how it is tested and tried and proven. Private universities cannot be diffident about their artificial, curiously hierarchical nature or their essentially intellectual and civic purpose. They must be able to persuade others that the ability to pursue the truth responsibly and freely is a precious charge and a national asset and that responsibility and freedom are not incompatible desires or goals. Universities must be able to explain how they are part of a larger vision a society must set for itself—of a mutually supportive and candidly respectful culture where pluralism is ordered so that it can be nourished and where diversity is defined as good. Universities cannot believe, lest they lie to themselves, that they alone contain this vision, but they cannot be forced to compromise their vision, lest society lose one of its central modes for seeing.

A. Bartlett Giamatti, “The Private University and the Public Interest”, in A Free and Ordered Space: The Real World of the University