National studies have underscored the value employers place on the analytical and communication skills that training in the humanities and social sciences, cornerstones of a liberal arts education, is focused on developing. And the national press has repeatedly highlighted liberal arts education as particularly suited to contemporary professional, social, and political challenges. So why is the UW System moving to deprive students of the broad liberal arts curriculum that is broadly acknowledged as the foundation of lifelong professional success?
If the formula for professional success were black and white, it would simply be a matter of training students to memorize simple facts, giving them a flow-chart for their chosen field, and sending them off to prosperity. But such an approach to education has never resulted in a trajectory of continuous professional advancement, and it never will. The reason why is simple: human life is multidimensional, and all its dimensions are continuously evolving and interacting. As a result, perhaps the most critical capability for higher education to develop in our students is adaptability.
Adaptability – to give a mundane example – is what enables an employee to watch a short training video on upgrades to software utilized by their employer and immediately apply the improvements to their daily responsibilities. Those who possess such adaptability and combine it with a strong work ethic become prized employees with opportunities for advancement. Those who become industry leaders in this age of rapid technological evolution typically take adaptability one step further, to the point of imagining and manifesting the future. College and university campuses have long served as hubs of this sort of innovation, precisely because the culture of inquiry fostered by a broad liberal arts curriculum confronts us, students and professoriate alike, with a wide array of intellectual contexts (the sciences, cultures, languages, and histories that define human existence) and challenges us to adapt to different modes of learning, knowing and communicating.
To take an additional mundane example, email currently dominates communication in nearly every professional field; facility in written communication thus has a significant impact on success, regardless of one’s choice of career. But the liberal arts emphasis on writing goes beyond simple mastery of a professional skill to developing the ability to learn new skills. As John Bean so cogently phrases it, “When we make students struggle with their writing, we are making them struggle with thought itself.” His observation is based on the realization that effective written communication depends upon firm conceptual knowledge, and that sloppy writing is often a symptom of poor understanding. The struggle to communicate concepts and ideas effectively, which is at the heart of writing incorporated into a liberal arts curriculum, does more than merely enable students to craft appropriate emails. It promotes the conceptual mastery of new knowledge that goes hand-in-hand with successfully adapting to challenges in rapidly evolving technical professions.
It’s unfortunate that “liberal” has come to have a distinctly negative political connotation for many and that the origin of liberal arts in unrestrained ingenuity has been largely forgotten. The unrestrained ingenuity fostered by a broad liberal arts education is precisely what leads to professional success in our current era of swift environmental, economic, and social change. It’s a crime to deprive students at Wisconsin’s public universities of this foundation and the opportunities it brings.
Renee M. Calkins, Ph.D.
Executive Committee, UWM AAUP
On February 15, 2018, the Faculty Senate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee unanimously approved this resolution.
WHEREAS UW System President Ray Cross has publicly declared his support for shared governance, promising at one point on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus to resign his position if he failed to protect shared governance;
WHEREAS it has now been publicly disclosed that President Cross disparaged and intentionally circumvented shared governance in decreeing that the University of Wisconsin System be restructured, having emailed Regent Gerald Whitburn that he was “Getting hammered by the ‘shared governance’ leaders because they weren’t involved in the process; however, had they been involved we wouldn’t be doing anything!!”
WHEREAS shared governance is ultimately responsible for implementing UW System President Cross’s hasty, top-down decision that the UW Colleges be broken up and merged with four-year, comprehensive, and research universities;
WHEREAS shared governance is an essential mechanism to guarantee the accountability, transparency, and high quality education we have come to expect from the University of Wisconsin System;
WHEREAS shared governance was instrumental in helping UWM to achieve its R1 status by starting new PhD programs and raising the university’s research profile;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Faculty Senate of the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, hereby demands that President Cross honor his earlier pledge to protect and respect shared governance in all relevant administrative decisions regarding the UW System and its campuses.
From the National Humanities Alliance:
The most recent Presidential Budget Request calls for the elimination of
- the National Endowment for the Humanities;
- the elimination of the National Historic Records and Publications Commission, a critical source of grants for preserving our heritage and making it accessible to the public;
- the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), along with other cultural agencies;
- and the elimination of Title VI and Fulbright-Hays!
Take action to oppose these proposals!
IMPORTANT: TODAY, Friday 2/9: ORGANIZING EVENT CANCELLED DUE TO SNOW.
EVENT 1: AAUP Organizing and Training Event with Monica Owens, Department of Organizing and Services, AAUP National
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9th
9 AM- 12 Noon
Location: Curtin 175
9-11 am Recruitment strategies and chapter organizing
11-12 noon Student allies
Bring 3 friends! Monica Owens, based in Washington D.C., is an organizer with wide-ranging experience, specializing in campaigns and advocacy for K-12 and higher education.
EVENT 2: Roundtable discussion
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12th
Location: UWM, Honors House 196
Open to all UWM and UW-System faculty, staff, and students
EVENT 3: Bagel hour lunch with graduate students
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13th
Location: UWM, Center for 21st Century Studies, 9th floor Curtin Hall
Open to all graduate students
EVENT 4: Dean’s Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities, followed by reception
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13th
Title: Does the U.S. Need Public Universities?
Location: UWM Golda Meir Library, 4th floor conference center
Free and open to the public