Skorton, Martin to participate in national humanities colloquium

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Humanists from across the country, including Cornell President-elect David J. Skorton and Provost Biddy Martin, will meet in Philadelphia May 12 at a national colloquium convened by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Association of American Universities (AAU) to discuss the state of the humanities.

Skorton and Martin serve on the ACLS/AAU humanities steering committee. Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, is Cornell's liaison to the committee. Mostafavi is also planning to attend the May 12 colloquium.

The AAU's 2004 in-depth report, "Reinvigorating the Humanities," examined the humanities on university campuses, proposed actions to strengthen them and looked at initiatives some institutions had undertaken. One proposal was for campuses to organize faculty roundtables focused on the role and future of the humanities.

Martin convened Cornell's roundtable last May 9 with Mostafavi and G. Peter Lepage, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. (See Two dozen faculty members and academic administrators talked about whether there is, as some observers have claimed, a "crisis" in the humanities, what role the humanities play at Cornell and what issues humanists should be concerned about.

One idea that evolved out of the roundtable and informal discussions across campus was production of a book of essays by Cornell faculty and students about the humanities. The book will be distributed at the May 12 meeting.

Skorton will participate in a panel discussion, "Presidential and Scholarly Leadership in the Humanities," with David Marshall, dean of humanities and fine arts at the University of California-Santa Barbara, and Lynn Hunt, the Eugen Weber Professor of Modern European History at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Musicologist Don M. Randel, president of the University of Chicago and former Cornell provost, will discuss "Humanistic Learning and Citizenship in a Global Society" with Thomas Mallon, acting deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. On July 1, Randel will assume the presidency of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Presenting a Washington perspective on "The Public Sphere of the Humanities" will be U.S. Rep. James Leach (R-Iowa) and U.S. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), co-chairs of the House Humanities Caucus. Other sessions will look at the role of the humanities in public policy, reading and knowing in the information age and a preliminary statistical overview of the state of the humanities from a national survey now under way.

The Cornell Chronicle will provide coverage of the national colloquium in the May 18 issue.

Linda Grace-Kobas is senior director of Cornell's Office of Humanities Communications.

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Linda Grace-Kobas