AU Interim president speaks to Rotary Club

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dr. Edward Richardson, interim president of Auburn University, and former Alabama State Superintendent of Education, addressed the Selma Rotary club during their Monday meeting.

“Resources are limited and trend lines are moving against us,” said Richardson. “Unless we address them, we won’t fare well in 2030. We need to be aware of this, because so often, we consume ourselves fighting battles that are long over.”

According to Richardson, America has to intensify its academic efforts in order to make it as a county.

“We need to recognize that education is very closely linked to economic development,” he said. “In 15 years, China is predicted to be the largest economy in the world.

China and India surpass our test scores in math and science.”

“I’ve been around a long time and I have watched whites and blacks throw the race card at the drop of a hat,” said Richardson. Do you think it matters to anyone in China and India if a kid is black or white if he or she can do the work? No! While we are fighting these battles, other countries are moving forward and leaving us in the dust.”

Statistics show that industries that America has traditionally depended upon such as agriculture, automotives, and textiles are becoming obsolete.

“Years ago, 70% of automobiles were manufactured in the U.S., but today, only 24% are,” said Richardson. “Of the 23,000 students at Auburn, only 874 are in Agriculture. What is the future of forestry? What is the future of agriculture? Not good, unless we make some changes.”

“How do we develop the capacity to do that?,” said Richardson. “We must put education in perspective. At the turn of the century, being literate meant being able to sign your name. During the 1950’s and 60’s, literacy meant being able to read on the sixth grade level. In the mid 1980’s and early 90’s you had to read on the high school level. Now, having a post-secondary education is a minimum requirement.”

According to Richardson, Auburn University’s top priority this fall will be conducting technological research.

“We anticipate that in five years, we will generate about 1,000 jobs,” he said.

Richardson also has plans to “make some major changes” at Auburn.

because “bigger is not always best.”

He said that if Auburn’s academic standards are increased and students are actually denied entrance into the school, it will cause high schools to demand more from their students.

“Higher academic standards are the only way out,” said Richardson.

“It’s so important to me that this state survive,” he said. “That people can say, ‘yes, this is a good place to come. Yes, this is a good place to live’. We’ve got a real challenge before us, but I believe we are up to it. I’m very optimistic that we’re going to respond – I know Auburn’s going to respond.”