1. [One speaker was] Brett Bowles, a French professor at SUNY Albany. . . . Bowles urged everyone in the audience to be proactive and aware of what’s going on in their universities and to make alliances across disciplinary boundaries. He encouraged larger humanities departments like English and History to stand up for the smaller majors because . . . “this is where we’re all headed. . . . ”
2. Some of the discussion amongst the audience after the panelists had their say was rather limited, and focused more on ideas about pitching our teaching more broadly or trying to make arguments that our courses teach valuable and marketable skills. I don’t think the value of our teaching or the courses we offer in the humanities is at all in question, because we know that universities and departments are happy to hire adjuncts and casual labor to cover them when we resign or retire.
3. Clearly, universities need someone to teach these courses–it’s our roles as humanities researchers and generators of new knowledge that are under attack. That’s what makes us different from K-12 teachers–those of us on the tenure-track are contractually and professionally required to conduct research and publish peer-reviewed articles, chapters, and books. That’s what the wider public doesn’t understand or care about, and what universities don’t want to support.
4. They’re perfectly happy with our work as teachers–in fact, many members of the public don’t understand why we don’t do more teaching. We need somehow to make the case that ongoing research in the humanities is worthy of public investment and private support both in its own right, and as something that continuously feeds and nourishes our teaching.
5. Where do we get ideas for new courses, new books, new kinds of assignments? The answer, 9 times out of 10, is either directly related to or an indirect byproduct of our research, and if universities fail to support their faculty as active researchers, the curriculum and the quality of teaching will suffer directly. Moreover, universities and the general public have a broader responsibility to the culture of our nation to support humanities research across a variety of fields and disciplines: think of the cost to our other cultural institutions like museums and the arts if university faculty were required just to teach, and never learned new languages, never went to archives to look at ancient or recently unclassified documents, or stopped providing expert advice on preserving old buildings and on city planning and development questions. . . .
6. Are we really prepared for scholarship to become the pursuit of dilettantes again, as it used to be, or do we think that access to a great education and productive faculty scholars is important to fulfilling the promise of our democracy? . . . Will America defend her great democratic institutions, or should we all just fold up the chairs and go home?