Posts by Stan Katz
April 10, 2009, 04:11 PM ET
In yesterday’s New York Times Tamar Lewin reported that the Lumina Foundation for Education has begun a project to extend the European Bologna Process to the United States. The Foundation’s press release explains that the Europeans are using the process to promote “transparency, coordination and quality assurance” across their higher-education systems.
The effort has been tagged “tuning,” and aims “to create a shared understanding among higher education’s stakeholders of the subject-specific knowledge and transferable skills that students … must demonstrate upon completion of a degree program.” The American effort will be led by groups in Indiana,...Read More
April 8, 2009, 11:45 AM ET
David Glenn covered the AAC&U Network for Academic Revival meeting in San Diego for the Chronicle and reported a few days ago that despite the severity of the recession, several attendees saw “reasons for hope”: “The recession . . . might be a time for colleges to renew their implicit contract with the public, and for faculty members to reassert their standing as professionals.” Bill Sullivan of CFAT is, for instance, quoted as saying that as “the assumptions of the dizzy boom years seem suddenly untenable . . . there will be more intense demands for scrutiny and accountability as to the effectiveness of academe at fulfilling its public mission.”
It surely seems clear that the financial pressures currently afflicting higher education will create new incentives to refocus on the public mission of higher education. But...Read More
April 3, 2009, 12:31 PM ET
We have just lost a good one. Emory Elliott, a University Professor at UC Riverside and one of the leading figures in American literature, died of a heart attack last Tuesday at the all too young age of 66. Emory was probably the leading figure in the humanities at UCR, and the force behind its innovative Center for Ideas and Society – one of the most interesting of the campus-based humanities institutes founded during the last couple of decades.
Emory was trained as a specialist in early American literature, so our scholarly interests were close, and he was a good friend and deeply valued colleague of mine during the years he taught at Princeton. We became particularly close in the early 1980s when we were both initial masters of the new residential colleges. Emory was deeply committed ...Read More
March 31, 2009, 05:02 PM ET
Last week Jeffrey Young reported in The Chronicle that conference attendance is down due to cutbacks on travel funds by hard-pressed colleges and universities. Rosemary Feal is quoted as saying that the MLA last December saw a 6-percent decline in attendance, and I am sure that is not the worst case. The cuts are supposed to affect senior scholars disproportionately, since some institutions are protecting younger faculty, and there is concern that fewer graybeards will show up. I can’t be sure if that is true, but I attended the Organization of American Historians’ annual meeting in Seattle last week, and it seemed to me that my doddering age group was well represented. Rick Shenkman reported for the History News Network that 1,800 registered for the OAH meeting. This...Read More
March 25, 2009, 05:17 PM ET
Photo of John Hope Franklin tending his orchids is at IndyWeek.com.
The country, academe, and the field of history lost one of their finest this afternoon, when John Hope Franklin died at the age of 94. John Hope was one of the most important historians of his generation — and of the 20th century. His influence has been profound, and I think it will endure, for he had a profound impact on the historical profession.
He wrote many books, but of them my favorite is The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860, originally his Harvard doctoral dissertation, first published in 1943. The book was pathbreaking in many respects, especially in its mining of manuscript court records, and I think it has never sufficiently been recognized as one of the first great research exercises in my own scholarly field, American legal history.
John Hope is best known, of course, as one of the ...Read More
March 24, 2009, 04:20 PM ET
Much of the concern about humanities publishing has focused on books. Books remain key, since in many fields of the humanities publication of a book (or two) remains a criterion for tenure. The principal challenges here are the capacity of academic presses to publish enough books to satisfy the demand of scholars to create books; and the acceptability of print-on-demand and e-publication for tenure/promotion decisions. These are very big problems.
But Jennifer Howard’s Chronicle article reminds us that article publication in the humanities is also undergoing a transformation. There seem to be two problems here: the reluctance of senior scholars to submit articles for peer review, and the rapid changeover of humanities journals to digital publication. As to the first, it seems intuitively...Read More
March 22, 2009, 04:57 PM ET
Ever since my days (1986-1997) at the American Council of Learned Societies I have been interested in system of scholarly communication in the humanities. The “system” used to be thought of as the triangular relationship between scholars, librarians, and academic publishers. My predecessor at ACLS, the late Bill Ward, had secured a grant from the Mellon Foundation to establish an Office of Scholarly Communications and Technology in Washington, D.C. with the thought of thinking through the implications of the twin revolutions in telecommunications and computing for humanities scholarship.
It was a prescient notion, but it turned out to be premature, for humanities scholars in those days were just beginning to use word processing and few had discovered e-mail, much less the scholarly applications of computing. So we were forced to shut the office down, with a promise that ACLS would...Read More
March 18, 2009, 06:29 PM ET
Reading James Traub’s article on the plans for the George W. Bush presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine took me back to my own years (1988-2000) as a trustee of SMU. Though neither a Methodist nor a Dallasite (a word I had not heard before 1988), I was added to the board of trustees by my close friend A. Kenneth Pye, who had just been recruited to help rebuild the university after its recent football scandal. Ken, who died all too soon thereafter, had ambitious plans to improve the quality of research and instruction, and to make SMU more fully a national university. I learned an incredible amount about a smaller and church-related university, and came to admire the business-dominated board...Read More
March 15, 2009, 11:58 AM ET
I noticed a brief post by Robin Pogrebin in yesterday’s New York Times reporting that President Obama has created a White House position “to oversee arts and culture.” The President has selected Kareem Dale (“a lawyer who last month was named special assistant to the President for disability policy”) for the job. Dale previously worked for Senator Obama on arts policy, and former NEA Chairman Bill Ivey is quoted as saying that this is “a big step forward in terms of connecting cultural and government [sic] with mainstream administration policy.” Ivey noted that Dale’s position would “mainly involve coordinating the activities of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services ‘in relation to White House...Read More
March 11, 2009, 05:55 PM ET
Santayana had it right.
Arnita Jones of the American Historical Association has been kind enough to bring to my attention something that Waldo Leland, the executive director of the American Council of Learned Societies, wrote to the historian Charles Homer Haskins in the 1920s: “I have been wracking my brain for weeks in an effort to think of undertakings appropriate to the Council of Learned Societies which might be characterized as having ‘practical’ bearings upon present-day problems. It seems difficult. But this is what I think we have got to do if we are to win any funds from trustees of endowments and foundations.” Leland could have been writing about the problems of the humanities this week, and of government as well as philanthropic support.
Patricia Cohen of The New York Times is not the only one worrying about the difficulty the academic humanities have in...Read More