The problem is that the Humanities are being marginalized within colleges that should be protecting and nurturing them. In many instances, this is because tuition-driven liberal arts colleges are redefining themselves our of a perceived sense of exigency. Professional studies, business, and “technical” programs have recently experienced growth even in traditionally liberal arts settings. For example, at our college, “Business,” a major that did not exist twenty years ago, is now the most common choice of incoming students. Consequently, the Humanities exist primarily to serve the needs of the more “practical” programs at once enabling the college to continue billing itself as a liberal arts institution. This implicit purpose appears substantiated by the fact that many students—especially first-generation college students and immigrants from developing countries—are succumbing to the dual pressures of parental expectations and the institutions own branding of what it offers for the students’ practical benefit. Hence, while general education programs pay lip service to a “grounding” in the liberal arts, liberal arts disciplines struggle to attract and keep majors. Why are these changes significant and why, moreover, are they timely and telling?—because these liberal arts institutions are beginning to appear false to their students, to their faculty, and to themselves. In essence, they represent a kind of bait and switch common to car lots but, until recently, not so common to colleges. Drawing on their reputations as liberal arts colleges, these institutions invoke a host of symbolic associations when applicants decide to attend and when professors elect to apply for tenure-track positions. In turn, they deliver something essentially different upon the students’ arrival or the professor’s commitment to the college. What does this essay purport be done? It contends that we need to investigate and analyze signs and symptoms of this shift occurring in cash-strapped institutions away from the Humanities; we need to recognize and recon with how this shift informs and infects particular courses; and, finally, we to reconsider and redefine the role of the Humanities professor, making room in the role for the professor as recruitment and retention deputy in the Office of Admissions.
|Keywords:||Humanities Marginalized, Tuition-Driven Liberal Arts Colleges, Admissions, Composition, General Education Programs|
Participant/Co-Author, Assistant Professor, English, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
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