A Crisis in the Academy: Humanity Studies Are Not an Educational Luxury
Since the 1970s higher education in America has become increasingly driven by market forces. The result of this, according to James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield in "The Market-Model University: Humanities in the Age of Money," is the demise of the humanities. Pointing to data on the decline of undergraduates pursuing degrees in the humanities, the undervaluing of humanist professors in the areas of salary, teaching loads, and release time for research, and the lack of significant external grants and funding for research in the humanities, Engell and Dangerfield conclude that "we will soon be looking not at a weakened tradition of humanistic learning and education, but a defunct one. In addition to the economic forces currently eroding higher education nationwide, many states, especially Virginia, are experiencing severe funding cuts as a result of the current economic downturn in the aftermath of September 11. To balance Virginia's budget, Governor Warner cut substantially the Education and General (E&G) funding that Virginia's public institutions of higher education receive from the state. On September 20, 2002, all public colleges, universities, and community colleges were required to submit plans to Richmond showing how each institution would handle 7%, 11%, and 15% cuts to their E&G budgets. A requirement of these plans was that they not include revenue generation. In other words, tuition increases could not be used to offset the reductions. As one of five faculty members appointed by Paul Trible, President of Christopher Newport University (CNU), to work with five members of the Administration to devise these plans, I was part of a committee that prepared the plans submitted to Richmond and eventually adopted by unanimously by the CNU Board of Visitors. At the heart of these plans was the commitment to preserving liberal arts in the curriculum, a commitment that led the committee, the President, and eventually the Board of Visitors to terminate three professional degree programs: (1) Nursing, (2) Education, and (3) Recreation, Sports, and Wellness Management. My first objective will be to inform — to discuss the historical underfunding and, hence, undervaluing of higher education in Virginia. Secondly, I hope to defend the decision made by CNU and to forward the case that it is critical for institutions of higher education to recommit to the humanities and humanists and to, as funding is restored, assert the value of those as central to the academy despite present political and social agendas.
Keywords: Humanities and Economics and September 11, 2001
Prof. Jean Filetti
Attendance, Associate Professor of English, English Department at Christopher Newport University