John H. D'Arms
American Council of Learned Societies
The public program of the 1998 ACLS Annual Meeting considered the place of the Humanist on campus and explored aspects of continuity and change. Our four panelists and moderator all received ACLS Fellowships at some point in their careers: we think it appropriate to publicize this fact, since our more than 4,000 ACLS Fellows constitute a powerful academic presence on their campuses, valued both for the distinctiveness of their voices as well as for their notable contributions as scholars and as educators.
In a thoughtful study of the research university in the Fall 1993 issue of Daedalus, Jonathan Cole observed that the sense of connectedness between scholars and their campuses is weaker today than at any point in the past. We encouraged panelists to address the questions: what forces cement, what forces attenuate, the ties between the scholar and the campus? What changes are detectable over time, and what signs of impending change might be noted as we look to the future?
Other questions present themselves. What do we mean today by an "academic community" and how do Humanists contribute to it? Might one helpfully distinguish between "cosmopolitan" tendencies of scholars and scholarship (list-servs and other electronic forms of communication among scholars, the proliferation of scholarly conferences and meetings, not just off-campus but around the world, much of this broadening but much of it facilitating the creation of even more scholarly sub-groups and specialized discourses) and "local" ties (mainly, but far from exclusively, to departments, which increasingly have become only appointing and administrative units, not intellectual centers)? Is it reasonable to suppose that effective, self-confident institutions are those in which "cosmopolitan" scholars are also "local" scholars, participating actively in institutional life?
What impact have campus-based Humanities Centersnow nearly 90 in numberhad in improving scholarly communication and understanding across fields and departments, and upon the undergraduate and graduate curricula? Do graduate education and scholarship operate as centrifugal forces, driving faculty away from a sense of basic institutional purpose? Are Humanities faculty willing to/capable of working collaboratively to shape the overall curriculum of the first two undergraduate years, and if so, to participate actively in the more synthetic, integrative course offerings that they shape?
Lynn Hunt's essay in What's Happened to the Humanities (A. Kernan, ed., Princeton, 1997) raises a number of suggestive questions. About academic demography and labor markets, for example: what are the implications of Humanities fields' successfully attracting greater numbers of women into the academy, but failing to attract greater numbers of minorities? Or, to the degree that the recent "theoretical turn" in humanistic scholarship is largely generational, what will successfully bridge the divide between junior and senior colleagues, especially since the older forms of academic socialization (including senior faculty offering hospitality to younger colleagues) have given way to a world of two-career households, and to the disappearance of spouses or partners able to take the time to entertain? And, pertinent to all of the above: does institutional typology require us to think differently about the above questions? That is to say, how far are conditions prevailing on research university campuses valid also in liberal arts colleges, or in community colleges?
Of course, it is easy enough to raise such questions, and to sail serenely past the controversies inherent in nearly all of them. Our panelists and our moderator-as was to have been expected-engaged some of these issues, ignored others, and (best of all) introduced additional themes well worth our attention. The ACLS is grateful to them all, and is pleased to present their contributions in this Occasional Paper.