The University of London has abandoned a plan to auction off an early set of Shakespeare, The Guardian reported. The university has been defending the plan, noting that it needs more money to preserve and grow its collection of historic documents, and that it has other early editions of Shakespeare. But criticism from academics has been intense, and was cited by university leaders in calling off the plan. "The university has decided to focus its attention on examining alternative ways of investing in the collection. The money raised from any sale would have been used to invest in the future of the library by acquiring major works and archives of English literature," said Adrian Smith, the vice chancellor.
Previously, faculty and current and former graduate students at MLA-affiliated departments of English and foreign languages (at most Ph.D.-granting institutions) could access the Job Information List at no charge. Non-MLA members without that access had to pay $65, while members paid $40. (MLA also made PDFs of its jobs list available to the public for free upon publication, five times annually. The online jobs list is updated weekly). Some criticized that model and last year, an anonymous group tried to open up the databases to the general public with a website called MLAjobleaks.com. The site is now dead.
In an e-mail, Rosemary Feal, executive director of MLA, said of the change: “The Executive Council attempts to make as much MLA material as possible free or low-cost to as many people as possible. It's our mission to promote the study and teaching of languages, and this is one way we carry out that mission.”
Public reaction so far has been positive. Christopher Lupke, associate professor of Chinese at the Washington State University at Pullman, wrote on the MLA Commons discussion board: “In this age when the humanities are under siege, we need to do everything we can for those just joining the ranks of our labor force. The free MLA [jobs list] is therefore a salutary development.”
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a “Humanities Report Card” Tuesday to accompany its earlier, lengthier Heart of the Matter report on the state of the humanities and social sciences. The academy described the report card as a “snapshot of the current data illustrating where the humanities are today.”
The report card is made up of infographics, data for which mainly were drawn from the academy’s existing Humanities Indicators statistical database. John Tessitore, director of programming for the academy, said the document is meant to be accessible to the general public, which has taken a keen interest in the original report, as well as academics and others involved in the humanities. It’s also meant to drive traffic to the Humanities Indicators, he said, which paint a much more detailed, data-driven portrait of the humanities in schools, colleges, work and other aspects of American life.
The Heart of the Matter, released in June, argued for more investment in the humanities and social sciences, citing their value in shaping an informed electorate and in helping students prepare for careers – not just jobs.
The report card is divided into several sections, including “The Value of the Humanities,” “Signs of Health” and “Challenges.”
Positive indicators include:
84 percent of humanities majors are satisfied with their choice of major.
19 percent of members of Congress majored in the humanities; 37 percent majored in the social sciences.
Three out of four employers say they want new hires with “precisely the sorts of skills that the humanities teach: critical thinking, complex problem-solving, as well as written and oral communication.”
Between 2000 and 2009, humanities majors scored 9 percent higher on the Graduate Management Admissions Test than did business majors.
Despite reports on declining numbers of humanities majors since the 1960s, the number of bachelor’s degrees in the humanities has grown since its nadir in the 1980s, with more than 185,000 degrees reported in each year from 2009 to 2011.
Negative indicators include:
The gap between average math and verbal scores on the SAT is growing.
Only 13 percent of college students learn “critical need” languages for international security and global competitiveness.
Reading for pleasure declined 11 percent from 1992 to 2008.
U.S. high school students ranked 10th in a recent international reading assessment.
In 2011, humanities research received only 0.48 percent of the amount of research and development funds dedicated to science and engineering in higher education.
Advocates of the humanities praised the document.
Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, in an e-mail commended the academy for its statistical focus on the past two decades, noting that some of the conversations about the so-called decline of the humanities have relied on outdated data or historical scopes that don't illuminate current realities. Based on the data, there are things to celebrate about the state of the humanities, and causes for concern, she added.
James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said it shows "why humanities education benefits individuals and their communities. And then it tells us what we are accomplishing in that area, and what we are not."
Beyond the statistics, he said, it's important to consider much of the general public "knows the landscape" underlying the report card, and ways to improve it. "I suspect there is a broad consensus on the importance of young children being read to by their parents; and then having qualified teachers as they get older," he said in an e-mail, referring to statistics in the report. "And when these things aren't happening enough we have to publicize that deficiency in our public culture. We also need to be prepared to suggest ideas for improvement. President Obama cannot issue an executive order requiring parents or older siblings to read to young children. How do we encourage such activity? What sorts of professional development and hiring policies do we need to increase the number of students who learn history from qualified teachers?"
In today’s Academic Minute, Dana Hawley of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University explains why diseases evolve more virulent strains that pose a greater threat to the host. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Scholars and others are criticizing the University of London for a plan to sell four early editions of Shakespeare's plays, The Guardian reported. The university says it has other early editions of Shakespeare and could used the money raised at auction (perhaps up to $8 million) to refresh its collections. Richard Eyre, former director of Britain's National Theater, said: "Both in itself and as an emblematic gesture it is wrong. Partly because it sets a precedent: these things must be valued, and if academic institutions don't value them the game is up, really. It's completely wrong, indefensible."
A professor of vocal music education at the University of Wisconsin at Superior is on paid leave as the institution investigates revelations that he is a convicted sex offender. Reports surfaced late last month that Matthew Faerber pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of attempted sexual abuse of a child and was sentenced to six months in prison, when he was the choir director at Murray High School in Utah, the Duluth News Tribunereported. Both counts involved 13-year old students.
Faerber was hired in 1998, before Superior required employee background checks (in 2007).
Faerber told the News Tribune: “This went through the court system; I have paid for what I did,” he said. “I have been clean 100 percent.”
A university spokeswoman said Superior is conducting an investigation to ensure the safety of current students. No complaints have been filed against Faerber at Superior, according to the newspaper. It’s unclear if or when he’ll be allowed to return to campus. In an e-mail, the spokeswoman said "we need to be diligent and thorough in our fact-finding investigation before we can draw conclusions."