My good brother Christopher Cone…
As Wellmon suggests, the typical ends of the university are not final ends: “to create and care for knowledge and to pass that knowledge on by teaching” is not the ultimate goal. The Apostle Paul once wrote to Timothy that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). The goal of the university ought not to be simply related to knowledge itself, it ought to be transparently identified in recognition of the purpose of the knowledge. Any institution of learning ought to be committed not just to promoting a body of knowledge (and a culture which values that knowledge) but to helping to contextualize that knowledge in order to help facilitate the proper use of that knowledge.
Thus, while Wellmon diagnoses that university leaders are captains of erudition and not leaders of communities bound to a common moral mission, perhaps this is actually part of the problem. We cannot divorce knowledge from worldview. As we engage and interact with knowledge, we do so from a perspective. That perspective impacts how we arrive at the knowledge, how we interpret it, and how we apply it. To pretend that the university setting provides an automatic immunity from such subjectivities is to blatantly misunderstand essential principles of worldview.
The pretended neutrality so prevalent in our university culture today is destructive in its deceptiveness, obscuring knowledge and the final ends for which it exists. This guise of objectivity provides for universities and their leaders a wall of excuse to hide behind. It is as if they can say, “We are simply providing information, and helping our students to think. We are not actually trying to lead them to any particular conclusion, and thus we are not to blame.” Yet all the while they are leading their students. The question is not whether or not universities and their leaders are setting a moral tone, the question is whether or not that tone is one worth setting and one worth following.