When a field of study becomes important in the mind of the public, should a university respond?
It probably will put resources behind that field; but many times that is only because it isn’t listening to Robert Maynard Hutchins comments on that.
“…an institution…should have an educational policy and then try to finance it, instead of letting financial [or political] accidents determine their educational policy…” (For the full quote, see here.)
So, how does one distinguish between empire building, by using public and political pressure on the administration, and legitimate funding for a field that has become important?
It seems to me that the only way to do that is by having university leaders (the ones in the best position to distinguish empire building from legitimate needs) whose interest is education and research. Otherwise, the leaders will seek support, from both outside and inside the university, by “…letting financial [or political] accidents determine their educational policy…”
The only people who can guarantee that universities have leaders with the appropriate interests are the trustees.
But then maybe they are just there for self-aggrandizement themselves, or maybe they don’t see the problems. I’m sure it varies from institutions to institution. But if they have the will, they certainly know the way.