Volume 7, Issue 4
Why go to college? “You want the inside of your head to be an interesting place to spend the rest of your life.”
- Judith R. Shapiro, former President of Barnard College
I have been reading Andrew Delbanco’s College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be. It is a welcome and readable defense of college education by a Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University. It is particularly welcome because we live in a political climate that tends to value higher education solely for the workers it can produce for the American (or Ohio) economy. Clearly there is, as Delbanco admits, an undeniable economic value in higher education, both for the economy as a whole and for the individual student seeking employment after graduation. Equally valuable but often not recognized, however, is higher education’s roles in the formation of our students as contributing citizens for our democracy as well as its role, championed in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, in promoting fullness of living. Hence, Delbanco’s quotation from Judith Shapiro, printed above.
In particular, Delbanco laments that literature, history, philosophy, and the arts are becoming the stepchildren of some universities. While he supports the study of science, he notes that science “tells us nothing about how to shape a life or how to face death, about the meaning of love, or the scope of responsibility.” To answer these questions, one must turn to study in the humanities and arts. These “tell us that the questions we face under the shadow of death are not new, and that no new technology will help us answer them.” To keep from being stepchildren, we need not only to keep making the case for the importance of what we do but we must also teach with a passion that is commensurate with the important role we fill in the lives of our students. We must teach with a larger vision, always remembering that what we teach has the potential to fundamentally change lives.
Speaking of teaching, the spring semester is off to a good start As of January 28th, undergraduate enrollments were up by 7.8% over last spring. While graduate enrollments have fallen a bit (-1.6%), overall the college is ahead of last spring by 7%. As such, our performance beat the university average, which was up by 5% over last year.
Over the last few years, the big story in CLASS has been our outreach to community partners in social services, in the arts, and in the medical community to help our faculty and students become ever more engaged with our local community. I am pleased to report yet another fruitful community partnership, this one with the Cleveland Museum of Art. Recently the Museum has acquired an outstanding 15th-century illuminated missal (a service book used in Catholic Masses). The missal was created by two artist brothers, Bartolomeo and Giapeco Caporali, for the Franciscan community in the little town of Montone, just outside of Perugia, Italy. The acquisition will be unveiled to the public in a special exhibition this spring. In addition, under the leadership of Matt Jackson-McCabe, a group of our art and humanities faculties has worked for several years with the curator of medieval art, Stephen Fliegel, to put together an outstanding lecture series on the missal and its Renaissance contexts to accompany the exhibition. This lecture series will begin on Sunday, March 3rd, with an introductory presentation by Dr. Fliegel at the Museum. It will continue with presentations by leading authorities (including Samantha Baskind, Marian Bleeke, and Sucharita Adluri) on March 20th and on April 17th. Both of these presentations will take place in the CSU Student Center Ballroom. The series will continue with a lecture and performance of Catholic liturgical music on April 21st at the Museum. Finally, the series will end with a lecture focusing upon Umbrian painting by a distinguished professor from the University of Kent in England. The final lecture will take place on May 8th. All these events are free and open to the public, and I encourage you to visit the exhibition and to attend one or more of accompanying events. More information on the series can be found at csuohio.edu/class/caporali.
I want to note in passing that our colleague Liz Lehfeldt has been appointed to two important leadership positions in her profession. First, she has been selected as part of the leadership team of the American Historical Association’s project entitled “Tuning the History Discipline in the United States,” which was funded by a large grant from the Lumina Foundation. The project will attempt to redefine what a history major should know at the end of his or her undergraduate studies and, thus, to harmonize what has become a fractured conversation. Dr. Lehfeldt’s appointment to this position is recognition of her national stature in the discipline. In addition, Dr. Lehfeldt has been elected Vice-President and President-Elect of the Sixteenth-Century Society and Conference. As President, she will have the responsibility of organizing the program for the Society’s Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in October of this year. Congratulations, Liz!
As always, I also encourage you to take a quick look at the most recent edition of the CSU Arts Calendar, covering January through March of 2013 You can find it at csuohio.edu/class/artscalendar. Here you will find God’s plenty, including music concerts, dance concerts, plays, and art exhibits. You will have no trouble finding just the right event to liven up the end of Cleveland’s long winter.
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