Two Ford administration economic advisers announced formation yesterday of a university program to help business students and executives better understand decision-making processes in Washington.
Beginning this summer, the Washington Campus Program will offer 60 graduate students credit courses in policy development in the executive branch, government regulation, congressional relations and international finance. Supported by a constortium of nine universities and funded by the Aspen Institute and the Bank of America, the program is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.
The courses are the brainchild of William Seidman, former assistant to the president for economic affairs, and James T. Lynn, former director of the Office of Management and Budget.Seidman is now a senior vice president of Phelps Dodge Corp. and Lynn is a practicing attorney here.
Although the Ford administration had the reputation of harmonious relations with the business community, both former officials said the idea for the program sprang from their perceived lack of understanding between the parties.
"In attempting to respond to the queries of the business people who wanted to discuss their problems with the White House," Seidman said, "many of us became concerned that numerous business leaders lacked an understanding of the relationship between the private sector and the government. Or they lacked the basic knowledge to develop a positive, effective approach in dealing with issues that directly affected their growth, profits or markets."
Like wise, government officials often lacked understanding of business problems, he added.
Reeling off a long list of government decisions that affect business-from the price guidelines to product safety regulations-Lynn emphasized that the four-week courses are not intended to create expertise in these complex areas but rather to explain how decisions are made on vital topics.
Lynn expressed confidence that the educative process will help to eliminate the "paranoia" some business executives feel about government regulation. He said they will learn to appreciate good regulations and to suggest ways for improving bad regulations.
Asked if the formation of such a program was intended as a criticism of business schools, Seidman replied that it was more an indication of need. He cited a survey of business schools showing that only 30 percent offered more than three graduate courses in public policy, and that only five out of 372 schools offer doctoral programs in that subject.
One of the advantages of the Washington Campus Program is that it can present living case studies, often with the actual participants. Instructors for the first session, all of whom were administration economic advisers, are Sidney L. Jones, Marvin H. Kosters and Roger B. Porter. Robert K. Wolthius served as a presidential adviser on congressional relations.
If the enterprise can secure adequate funding, it plans to offer curricula eventually for business executives, summer interns and professors who wish to set up similar programs at their own universities.
The participating universities are:
Dartmouth College, Cornell University, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, Indiana University, University of New Mexico, and Grand Valley State Colleges. Seidman has personal ties with three of them; the others were selected for their geographical diversity.