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Excuse me, can you spare a Humanities Chair?

May 13, 2009
Benozzo Gozzoli, Journey of the Magi, fresco, ...
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[Edited after a snarky commenter pointed out my grammar slippage]

[Written in response to InsideHigherEd’s article Top Ph.D. Programs, Shrinking.]
I think that the whole tenor of the discussion misses the economic point.  Yes, there are too many PhDs in the market, which facilitates contingent hiring, which waters down the average salary.  Yes, shrinking the incoming pool MAY change this situation in twenty years.

However, to keep discussing department/institutional finances as if these departments/institutions were viable on the open market is patently dishonest.  There are few, without State or endowed subsidy, who would survive on their own.  This is not to say that there isn’t a need nor a societal benefit to the continuation of Humanities.  That, for me, is the assumed.  But, to even consider that a department should pay their own way, either through their students or through their positions, is wrongheaded.

What we need are more sponsors, not less fewer students and not less fewer full time positions.  We need deep pockets to pony up positions, to endow more chairs and to subsidize more studies, art or books.  Sure, there is a sense of beholding to the Medici model, but it is, upon reflection, more accurate than saying that the Southern Immigrant Languages Department at Snooty U has reduced its incoming class as a way to balance its budget (which has been balanced in part by the use of contingent labor for decades).

Get a clue.  Get a donor.

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  1. brokeharvardgrad permalink
    May 19, 2009 8:30 pm

    Less/fewer, wordsmiths might argue these points, but really, either is grammatically correct. Less might not apply just to number, but that is a digression. What I won’t quibble with is your idea of a sponsor–after all, pharmaceuticals have been doing it for years. Where would one find a sponsor for people to pick apart grammatical slip-ups, because even readers wouldn’t pay for that?

    The problem is that our society worships science, as evidenced by the new religion of Sceintology, (spelling suggestions anyone?). Language can’t be quantified, one of the reasons that scientists tend to have trouble with the concept of a subtle innuendo or great irony. How does one quantify a painting, a poem, or any other emotion? Arts have been sponsored for generations, but its the grammar-police who might suffer. Realistically, who wants that?

    • Holly R.Schultheis permalink
      June 15, 2009 4:37 pm

      THe spelling is: Scientology.

  2. Holly R.Schultheis permalink
    June 15, 2009 4:38 pm

    The ( oops) spelling is : Scientology.

  3. Holly R.Schultheis permalink
    June 15, 2009 4:40 pm

    Quoting ” but its the grammar- police…”

    It should be “but it is ( or it’s) the grammar police…”

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