Petsko, 2010 - Petsko Genome Biology 2010, 11:138

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An open letter to George M Philip, President of the State University of New York At Albany Dear President Philip, Probably the last thing you need at this moment is someone else from outside your university complaining about your decision. If you want to argue that I can’t really understand all aspects of the situation, never having been associated with SUNY Albany, I wouldn’t disagree. But I cannot let something like this go by with- out weighing in. I hope, when I’m through, you will at least understand why. Just 30 days ago, on October 1st, you announced that the departments of French, Italian, Classics, Russian and Teater Arts were being eliminated. You gave several reasons for your decision, including that ‘there are com- paratively fewer students enrolled in these degree programs.’ Of course, your decision was also, perhaps chiefly, a cost-cutting measure - in fact, you stated that this decision might not have been necessary had the state legislature passed a bill that would have allowed your university to set its own tuition rates. Finally, you asserted that the humanities were a drain on the institution financially, as opposed to the sciences, which bring in money in the form of grants and contracts. Let’s examine these and your other reasons in detail, because I think if one does, it becomes clear that the facts on which they are based have some important aspects that are not covered in your statement. First, the matter of enrollment. I’m sure that relatively few students take classes in these subjects nowadays, just as you say. Tere wouldn’t have been many in my day, either, if universities hadn’t required students to take a distribution of courses in many different parts of the academy: humanities, social sciences, the fine arts, the physical and natural sciences, and to attain minimal proficiency in at least one foreign language. You see, the reason that humanities classes have low enrollment is not because students these days are clamoring for more relevant courses; it’s because administrators like you, and spineless faculty, have stopped setting distribution requirements and started allow ing students to choose their own academic programs - something I feel is a complete abrogation of the duty of university faculty as teachers and mentors. You could fix the enrollment problem tomorrow by instituting a mandatory core curriculum that included a wide range of courses. Young people haven’t, for the most part, yet attained the wisdom to have that kind of freedom without making poor decisions. In fact, without wisdom, it’s hard for most people. Tat idea is thrashed out better than anywhere else, I think, in Dostoyevsky’s parable of the Grand Inquisitor, which is told in Chapter Five of his great novel, Te Brothers Karamazov . In the parable, Christ comes back to earth in Seville at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. He performs several miracles but is arrested by Inquisition leaders and sentenced to be burned at the stake. Te Grand Inquisitor visits Him in his cell to tell Him that the Church no longer needs Him.
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This note was uploaded on 09/25/2011 for the course ANTHROPOLO 111 taught by Professor Scott during the Spring '11 term at Rutgers.

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Petsko, 2010 - Petsko Genome Biology 2010, 11:138

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