Monday, December 6, 2010

Science versus the Humanities

A Faustian Bargain - An Open Letter to George M Philip, President of the State University of New York at Albany

I came across this really fascinating article today. It's about a university in New York that closed down a bunch of its humanities departments. The president of SUNY Albany, George M Philip, defended the decision to close down the departments of French, Italian, Classics, Russian and Theater Arts, by saying that the sciences are more practical, and have more enrollment. He said that the sciences are self-sustaining, because they bring in revenue in the form of grants, whereas the humanities are just a financial drain on the institution. Philip all but said that the humanities were dead, useless subjects that not enough people are interested in to make them worth keeping around. 

A professor from a different university, Gregory Petsko from Brandeis University - who is actually a science professor - wrote an open letter to Philip, and essentially said that you can't really have a university if there aren't humanities subjects. His open letter made an excellent argument in favour of the importance and contemporary relevance of the humanities, so I encourage you all to take a look at if you have a minute. 

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