Robert N. Watson is a professor of English. This op-ed originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Sunday, March 21.
The humanities — philosophy, art history, English literature, Slavic languages, musicology and the rest — are quaint, elderly relatives that the real, serious, modern university (consisting of technological researchers and the professional schools) subsidizes out of charitable tradition but has trouble pampering during difficult times. The president of my university, the University of California, made that clear on national television not long ago: “Many of our, if I can put it this way, businesses are in good shape. We’re doing very well there. Our hospitals are full, our medical business, our medical research, the patient care. So, we have this core problem: Who is going to pay the salary of the English department? We have to have it. Who’s going to pay it in sociology, in the humanities? And that’s where we’re running into trouble.”
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