College of Social Studies - Newsletter 2008
Issue No. 10 - May 2008
Table of Contents:
- News from the 4th Floor
- Alumni and the Endowment Fund
- Jeffery Butler
- David Titus Memorial
- Those First Years Out
- Reflections of a Dean
- The Next Edition
Editors: Li Yu ’99, Peter Kilby
NEWS FROM THE 4TH FLOOR
The College continues to move in its accustomed orbit. Our aim remains to admit 30 Sophomores each year and, with normal attrition, expect to graduate about 25 Seniors. In the last three years the graduating number has been above the mean (22, 28, 31) although our current Junior class of 16 is an example of the down-side dip that occurs every six-to-seven years. Happily, the reputation of the CSS among Wesleyan students has never been higher. We have just accepted next year’s class from a pool of 61 applicants, a number only surpassed once in the past fifty years.
What can we say about the students themselves? As to gender, females are no longer a minority – they constitute an even half. Students of color (all varieties) are about 40 percent. Their extramural activities range from WSA, the Argus and debating to crew, soccer, the Entrepreneur Society and Model UN. Regarding their quality, it’s as good as ever –or should I say the CSS social and intellectual chemistry continues to work its magic! Despite the absence of Sophomore grades, we manage to hold our own in the competition for Phi Beta Kappa, and we continue to out-perform in the domain of University Honors and post-graduate fellowships
Among our tutors, alumni from every class since 1966 will see at least one familiar name. Here is the list for the past several years: Beginning with economists, there is Richie Adelstein, John Bonin, Joyce Jacobsen, Peter Kilby, Tanya Rosenblat and Gil Skillman. From Government we have Guilio Gallarotti, Don Moon, Peter Rutland, Ernesto Verdeja and Sarah Wiliarty. Of the historians we find Rick Elphick, Erik Grimmer-Solem, William Johnston, and Cecilia Miller. From Philosophy, Brian Fay and Joe Rouse. David Titus and David Morgan were teaching in the program up until several years ago. Dean of the Social Sciences, Don Moon, in an essay nearby, reflects on the changing profile of faculty that Wesleyan recruits and their fit with the CSS curriculum.
The running of the College with a rotating leadership and rotating faculty is not a simple matter. And here the Administrative Assistant, the sole unmoving point, plays a key role. Madeleine Howenstine will soon complete her third year in this position. In her we have found everything we could have wished for. Adept with the computer and on the internet, she navigates Wesleyan’s complex budget accounts with ease. Maintaining student records, ordering furniture and journals, taking minutes at meetings, coordinating external examiners –all carried out with competence. Monday lunches, Friday social hours, banquets, holiday parties and receptions are planned and supervised by her. Her warm and outgoing personality is appreciated by all. In every dimension, she is a fitting successor to Anne Crescimanno and Fran Warren.
Some recent developments
We continue to review our curriculum in the ever-evolving academic enterprise. Writing, argumentation, analysis remain constant but intellectual perspectives change. While the domain of the Junior and Senior year is, as before, the post-World War II global stage, we have made a slight shift in the Senior Colloquium from “Democracy and Democratization” to the more inclusive “Political Economy” perspective. In preparation for our deliberations we prepared an inventory of all the curricula taught in the College over the past fifteen years, alongside the student evaluations of each of these 130-odd offerings. As we go forward it is most helpful to have a full understanding of where we have come from and what has worked and what has worked less well.
A longstanding CSS issue has been the employment of quantitative methods in our curriculum. Other than database retrieval and graphical analysis of some thirty time-series variables for Nigeria and Taiwan in the Junior Economics tutorial, there has been little direct work with numbers. Perhaps a third of our students take a statistics course, often in connection with a second major. As an experiment to serve some of those other two-thirds, especially as they contemplate their thesis research, we offered this spring semester a half-credit Pass/Fail course (CSS 301) in the bare-bones of regression analysis. Ten juniors signed up. It was a success, and will be offered again next Spring.
Dick Miller, recently retired from the Economics Department, was the instructor in that course. And, with notable generosity, he took the remuneration he received from the CSS Endowment Fund and did something we should have done a long time ago. He endowed a two hundred dollar annual Joan Miller Prize for the “Best CSS Honors Thesis”. The first winner is Raffi Stern who employed modern social theory to parse the conflict between free interaction of individuals attempting to satisfy their own interests found in The Wealth of Nations and the psychology of sympathy for one’s fellow man of The Theory of Moral Sentiments which results a willingness to give up one’s own particular desires for the good of the community. And a second endowed prize is in the works for the best interdisciplinary thesis, owing to the benevolence of Dan Prieto ’91.
In the Fall of this year the Co-Chairs held extended discussions with the new President, wherein we were graciously given ample time to present our views about the critical needs of the College. Cecilia Miller and Peter Kilby were joined by Peter Rutland –this trio representing the College leadership for the last four years—in documenting the case for several internal appointments, or, at a minimum, joint appointments.
Because the Departments have their own staffing imperatives, individuals most suited to our curriculum are not always available. In recent years untenured faculty in Economics and Government have been advised by their Chairs not to teach in the CSS prior to obtaining tenure. This means we may have to turn to moonlighters. Fortunately not this year, but for the past three years (and next year) we have had to rely on at least one outside visitor. Because CSS is no one’s home Department, attendance at tutors’ meeting does not match comparable attendance elsewhere. Catch-as-catch-can appointment of Co-Chairs –occasionally only a sole Chair when no other is available—means a less than optimal leadership in terms of planning and continuity. As a Department without appointments, we have but slight clout in university decision-making.
While a very successful major, for reasons of faculty motivation and coherence the CSS does not achieve its full potential. Whatever the contrary considerations to our arguments might have been in President Roth’s mind, they prevailed. The borrowed-faculty model for the CSS Department is to continue.
Alumni and the Endowment Fund
Your fellow alumni and alumnae continue to make their way in the world. Lawyers, school teachers and money managers to one side, the CSS persists in supplying 3 of the 30 Wesleyan trustees, in Athenahealth we have our first one-billion-dollar IPO, and –while a number of CSSers hold chairs in U.S. universities—at Columbia such a chairholder is also the institution’s Academic Vice President.
Beyond boosterism, and more critical to the health of the College, alumni now play a significant role in what we do. For example, a major ingredient in the success of the re-introduction of External Examiners eight years ago has been the participation of a number of our own academics as Examiners. Steve Sheffrin, Roberta Adams, Maggie McConnell, Ray Koslowski, David Fagelson, Diego Von Vacano, Stephen Engel and Jerome Copulsky have brought their affective knowledge of how the process works and of the avoidable pitfalls (into which we occasionally fell in the 1960s and 1970s). And alums have provided many of our best Banquet speakers. David Garrow, Matt Rees, Paul Halliday, Peter Arenella, Andrew Kleinfeld, Robert Hunter, Dan Prieto and Charles Bosk spring to mind. And those of you who have talked at the Monday luncheon are legion.
Before turning to financial matters, mention should be made of those activists organizing local CSS alumni social events in their home areas. Here we note Jan deWilde, Ben Magarik, Estrella Lopez, and Ben Oppenhiem. In addition to the Alumni Association convenors treated in our last Newsletter, John Driscoll, Mich Marinello and Ben Magarik have invested considerable time and energy in fund raising efforts.
As you all will recall from President Roth’s letter in the Fall, Ezra and Cecile Zilkha made a magnificent gift to the university of $2.5 million for a Chair in Social Studies. While the funds went to the University, the Chair designation adds to the visibility of the College. It has been awarded to Don Moon, long-time tutor and frequent Co-chair. A more recent gift of $250,000 from Robert Coleman ’68 does, by contrast, provide resources that strengthen the College. In this contribution to the CSS Endowment Fund, Bob joins Donald Zilkha in the “Trustee Associates” category, Diana Farrell (and her husband, Scott Pearson) in the “President’s Circle” and Tom Kelly and Tom Mattlack in the “Founders Club.” Of the third of CSS alums who so far have contributed, the generosity of these five donors has provided sixty percent of the 1.2 million we now have. While most can not manage such lofty levels, a doubling of the participation rate to 67% would most certainly carry us to our permitted maximum of $2.0 million.
Launched in 2002, the purpose of the fund is to enhance the faculty strength of the CSS. Several of its five specific objectives are aimed at making the College a more attractive place for faculty from the associated Departments to teach in. We do this by providing an automatic research grant of $1,000 per year to every serving tutor, by providing $3,000 grants for syllabus preparation that is uniquely tied to our curriculum and by providing funds to support interdisciplinary team-taught colloquia on current or special topics that lie outside the established curriculum. There is also provision to bring in for a semester or a year distinguished visitors whose current teaching or research closely matches the intellectual pursuits of the College. A final use of endowment income is to provide bridge financing in order to relieve a stressed situation. We may soon be doing this for a European historian whose slot might not otherwise be filled for two or three years.
A fully funded Endowment provides us with the means to strengthen our major in these important ways. It is a sign to the Wesleyan community and beyond of the esteem in which our alumni hold the program that formed them many years ago. And, by indirection it affords us a little more voice, a bit more weight in the arena of University decision making. “Wesleyan University for the CSS Fund” is a cause worth supporting.
Since our last Newsletter two of our beloved colleagues have passed away. Jeff Butler (who died but three weeks ago) joined the College in 1964 and retired in 1991. David Titus came two years later and he retired in 2003. Below are excerpts from remarks delivered at their respective Memorial Services by Rick Elphick and Peter Kilby.
Jeff was an old-school-tie type of guy. He was passionately loyal to Wesleyan, much as it often irritated him; to the History Department, and to the College of Social Studies. He was loyal to his wife and children and to his students. He was faithful to his colleagues, especially to his junior colleagues. In my early years at Wesleyan, I could not have had a better mentor. He guided me through the political minefields of Wesleyan and South African studies, critiqued my prose by writing his trademark “ugh!” in the margins, and gave me personal and financial advice that I vividly remember and am grateful for to this present day.
Jeff remained faithful to his siblings 7000 miles away in South Africa. He loved to mix his personal and the professional life and eagerly shared his spirited, cultured South African family with his North American colleagues. I was honored get to know three of his siblings—Dorothy, Joan, and Guy--, though they lived in different parts of South Africa, and though, as a rather tongue-tied Canadian, I was a bit intimidated by their wit and unable to keep pace with their rapid dialogue.
Jeff was faithful to Cradock, the dusty town of his childhood. Founded in 1811 as a frontier outpost between white settlers and African chiefdoms, Cradock had a population of around 6800 when Jeff was born there in 1922. Its segregated population consisted of Africans, Coloureds (people of mixed race), a few Asians, and the politically and economically dominant whites--themselves severely divided by ethnicity, by language, and increasingly by politics: the English vs. the Afrikaners.
Jeff was faithful to the memory of the generations that preceded him—to his grand-parents, parents, uncle, and aunt. And to the liberal politics his family espoused—a faint but inextinguishable tradition of decency that runs through South African history.
In the last third of his life, Jeff returned to Cradock, dedicating himself to writing a social history of the town based on meticulous and exhaustive archival research.
He set out, on the one hand, to show the normalcy of Cradock, whose town fathers boosted it as an “up-to-date” town. Like towns in farming communities anywhere, in the 1920s it acquired roads, hospitals, running water, and electricity. Jeff became interested in toilets and sewers. When historians boasted of writing the history of ordinary people—which they called history from the bottom up--he claimed to be the only one writing history from the bottom down.
But Cradock was not a farming town in Saskatchewan, Iowa, or New South Wales. It was embedded in what Alan Drury long ago labeled a “very strange society,” one with breathtaking inequalities and a rigid racial hierarchy that few whites in Cradock considered in any way troubling or abnormal. Jeff sought to show how even the most routine and pedestrian step in the development of the town was shaped and misshaped by the doctrine of segregation, and then how, after 1948, a new national government inflicted on Cradock the even more rigorous agenda of social engineering known as apartheid.
The Butlers of Cradock were dedicated Quakers, almost the only ones in town. Jeff would reject his family’s pacifism when he went off enthusiastically to fight the fascists in North Africa and Italy; and (as many of you will remember) with equal exuberance he rejected the teetotalism of his father, uncle, and aunt. Yet he was deeply respectful of the decency of his forebears, their commitment to the uplift of the unfortunate, and their allegiance to the Cape liberal tradition, which affirmed the right of all races to vote subject to the same qualifications. By the 1970s and 1980s, South African liberals were regularly excoriated by academics. Their resistance to segregation and apartheid had proved worse than useless, and their black allies, the products of missionary schools, had been superseded by far more radical leaders.
In 1986 Jeff and I, along with David Welsh of the University of Cape Town convened a conference in South Africa on South African liberalism. The country was in a state of widespread insurrection, only partially suppressed by the government. From the University of Cape Town each day we saw smoke rising from communities torched by government security forces; black radicals were taking refuge in the homes of their white liberal friends; and just before our conference convened, the government imposed a state of emergency. The Cape Times, the liberal paper of which one of our conferees was an associate editor, had been printing daily pictures of atrocities committed by the authorities in black townships. Suddenly on the first morning of the state of emergency it devoted its front page to the marital problems of a Hollywood starlet.
In this intense crisis--and with Colin Campbell, Wesleyan’s president, in attendance--some of the finest South African liberal minds presented papers that Wesleyan Press would later publish as Democratic Liberalism in South Africa: Its History and Prospect. Three years later the Berlin Wall was demolished; three months after that, Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison. Soviet communism and South African apartheid collapsed almost in tandem and with a rapidity predicted by no one; and the Soviet collapse had much indirect influence on South African events. A multiracial South Africa emerged in the 1990s with a markedly liberal constitution and under a government guardedly friendly to free markets. Next to the joy of seeing apartheid buried, this fact gave Jeff the greatest satisfaction.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Jeff published a number of articles and presented numerous seminar papers on Cradock to deeply appreciative audiences. His book was almost finished when he suffered a stroke. A number of his friends, including his daughter Katy and others present today, have been editing, checking footnotes, and preparing the manuscript for publication. The task, I am confident, will be completed in 2008--too late for Jeff to see it, but not too late for us to derive satisfaction from our task. It is an important book, one which no one of my generation, or in subsequent generations, could ever write. Publishing it will be a fitting way for us to honor a man who was faithful in so much, and to so many, and for us to be faithful in return.
David moved into the office just across the hall from mine in September 1966. He was replacing Richard Merlman as CSS Govern-ment tutor for the Sophomores. I was the Economics tutor for the Juniors. Like most of us back then, he came to Wesleyan “all-but-dissertation”. With a substantially unfamiliar curriculum to teach and a thesis to complete, we flew by the seat of our pants. Because teaching evaluations had not yet been introduced, we managed to squeak by those early years largely undetected.
David took longer than most of us to complete the dissertation –three years—but when he did, Palace and Politics in Pre-War Japan was a home run, published by Columbia University Press in the Ansley Prize series.
And for a number of years in the 1970s, he was the Deputy Chair of the Columbia Seminar on Modern Japan. As opposed to the rigorous behavioralism then espoused by the Wesleyan Government Department, David insisted that the functioning of Government, in its means and in its ends, could not be properly understood without close attention to cultural values and historical context. He brought this perspective to the Sophomore tutorial “The Rise of the Western Nation State” and especially to the Senior Colloquium “Democracy and Democratization since 1945” – a colloquium that treated the experience of such countries as China, India, Korea, Poland and Argentina.
David was deeply committed to the CSS as an institution. He loved the tutorial mode of teaching and the kind of intellectual formation that was achieved by its graduates. For a certain type of student, the very best education imaginable. And David savored being part of the intense intellectual and social chemistry that goes into the process. He would often say something to the effect “Can you believe it, I get to teach in these tutorials, and I even get paid for doing it.”
We have already heard of David’s willingness to subordinate his interest, his own personal progress, to a variety of collective enterprises which he esteemed. So it was here. The CSS exacts a considerable price. On the one hand the College operates wholly on borrowed faculty; on the other, it is extremely labor-intensive. Quite apart from the extensive work with individual students, a major campaign is required to recruit an incoming Sophomore class. Even more strenuous is the effort to recruit next year’s tutors from four, sometimes reluctant, Departments. A complex mechanism of written and oral external exams must be arranged each Spring.
The CSS program is also fragile. It is fragile in the sense that repeated short-falls in recruiting a full entering class or being forced to turn to moonlighting graduate students to serve as tutors would spell the end of the program. The pivotal actors in executing all the administrative procedures and in averting these fatal twins are the Co-Chairs. In a Department that is home to no one, no one wants to serve as its administrator. Every year is a struggle. One of a very small group who have volunteered for this critical function, David Titus stepped up to the plate ten times between 1973 and 2000.
There is much more to be said about David’s contributions to the CSS. The most notable is the attention that he gave to individual students. Others will speak to that shortly.
In an era when his peers became increasingly self-monitoring and inclined to define their rights and duties with ever more precision, David answered with his spontaneity, his over-flowing goodwill, his candor and his immoderation. The lore of Japan, the birds, the violin, the poetry, the joie de vivre brought a measure of gaiety into our lives, David Titus’ passing can only be seen as a unique subtraction from our institution. The ladder was taken up after him. He will not be replaced.
Allison Guinness, President of the Mattabeseck Audubon Society, writing in “Wingbeat”, the newsletter of the Mattabeseck Audubon Society:
What can I say about David Titus? Anything I could put in this small space just would not be enough to praise and thank David for all he has been to me and Mattabeseck Audubon. Without David, there would not be a MAS. He was the instigator of it all, and the glue that held it together. He knew birds like no one else, but it was just the miraculous way he could spot them, hear them, call them in, it was the way he got all of us hooked on birds and Mattabeseck. Who else could get a huge group of people together to go out in a blizzard or the bitter cold or a driving rainstorm all day shortly before Christmas instead of shopping – and leave every minute of it. David called the Christmas Count “the annual frostbite fellowship.” He would gather us all together for the tally like a parent bird with its brood as we excitedly awaited the results of the day’s quest.
David also helped Mattabeseck become a strong defender of the environment and promoter of wise development, leading the charge to protect Deadmans Swamp in Cromwell, one of his favorite places. David was the driving force in Mattabeseck’s acquisitions and preservation of sensitive areas in Wangunk Meadows in Portland.
We wish him well on the ultimate journey to the birds of paradise.
From Mark Wallach, ’71:
When I was on campus last May for my 35th reunion, I was able to visit David at his nursing home, where we had a somewhat choppy but still warm conversation. It was only weeks before he died. David and I had been close since my undergraduate days, and I always made it a point to visit him when on campus. Both of my children are Wesleyan alums, and my son (Philip ’05) was also in CSS. David was indulgent and helpful to both of them during their careers at Wesleyan. He was one of the intellectually alive and personally warm people I have ever known, if also flagrantly self-destructive, shockingly opinionated, and unable to resist taking cheap shots at people who got his goat. I miss him greatly.
From Rick Davidman, ’84:
With no disrespect to Morgan, Fay, Adelstein, et al,, David Titus was CSS during my years there and the program took on his personality. He was consistently enthusiastic, supportive and approachable. David always made feel like there was nowhere else he’d rather be than CSS, except perhaps birding. On a personal level, he kept from being tossed out of CSS during my sophomore year after agreeing with my argument that a bell-shaped curve needed a left-hand side – thereby allowing me to stay on “double-secret” probation thereafter. I will always be thankful for that second chance and proud that he didn’t regret his decision.
From Andrea Ring Grodberg, ’95:
I decided to become a CSS major after taking David Titus’s Japanese Film and Society class when I was a mere freshman. Nothing felt cooler than sitting in one those tiny, dark CFA screening rooms, watching deeply existential Japanese films from the sixties, and listening afterwards to Titus’s impassioned descriptions how and why the films were brilliant.
Of course the CSS served me well, but that Japanese film class, and the delicious sake that sometimes accompanied it, is what truly made a lasting impact.
From Stacia Friedman-Hill, ’85 (9/11/06):
I was saddened to hear about David Titus’ passing and also have many fond memories of CSS tutorials and Beer & Bull sessions.
One of my memories of Professor Titus occurred at the end of my sophomore year. We were interviewing prospective CSSers for the next sophomore class. One candidate had very lackluster grades and there were rumors of an “attitude problem”. From my diligent perspective, this seemed like an easy rule-out. During the interview, Titus cut straight to the point: “Look,” he told the candidate, “This is a very competitive, demanding program. Frankly, your freshman grades are horrendous and you appear to be quite lazy. Why would you even bother to apply to CSS?” The candidate acknowledged his shortcomings, but then made a passionate appeal for why he wanted to become part of CSS. Titus gave him a chance and the student was a fine member of the class of ‘86. More than once when I have been hiring research assistants, I’ve picked the passionate, intellectually curious B-average candidate instead of the polite, but passionless, straight-A student.
I didn’t pursue a traditional path when I left Wesleyan and CSS: Instead of working in government, law, or business, I got my doctorate in neuroscience. Over the years, I’ve wondered if the tutors would have thought their efforts went to waste. But more recently, I’ve come to appreciate how all that training in critical thinking and writing helped me as a scientist. And the Models of Man and epistemology seminars provided the initial sparks for my interest in how behavior and mental states are correlated with brain activations.
Those First Years Out
Since I remember the CSS class of 2003 as particularly close during our undergraduate days, it would seem only natural that we would continue to keep in touch post-commencement. But I think it especially remarkable that beyond our own valuable individual friendships, we as a class maintain a certain degree of cohesion, now even 3 years past graduation. We have kept regular contact over a “reply-all” email listserve that sees its most action around events such as tsunamis, presidential elections, weddings, hurricanes, and New Years. Our class is especially unique in its ability to stay in touch, and I think that this is a direct result of our being abroad during the fall of 2001. During this confusing time, we used CSS email correspondence as a legitimate way to make sense of the events of September 11th. I know I found solace in having 29 peers who could help me process, both intellectually and emotionally, such serious events, particularly from a location remote from the US. Thus from this unsettling orientation point, we trained ourselves to stay in contact over email, and happily, it translated well to our post-graduation worlds.
Graduating from college can be a dizzying and disorienting affair. Paying off loans, finding a job, staying in touch with friends, dealing with the mundane, like grocery shopping, to the extreme—evacuating a country suddenly embroiled in a revolution—all require skills and evoke emotions that few were prepared for. From my own experience as one, post-graduates are curiously unstable and confused creatures. Even after securing a job, apartment, healthcare, and financial solvency, the more abstract worries settle in: “Who am I? What do I do every day? Where am I going in life?” While this is unforgivingly trite, these feelings of uncertainty are very real experiences: one of my CSS peers wrote recently that he felt that after graduation he was drifting, and was tired of “waking up with nothing much to do.” During this itinerant and also confusing time, it has been comforting to correspond with my CSS peers, and to watch them chronicle their quests to find lives that suit them best and that replicate the passion, enthusiasm, and sense of purpose we had at Wesleyan, and certainly as CSSers.
Fortunately, many of my peers sound like they have starts of passionate careers and life experiences. They have already lived abroad in Georgia, France, India, Germany, Burma, Thailand, Taiwan, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, and Tokyo (and I am sure I am missing many other countries). They have worked in areas ranging from politics and the Peace Corps to research, education, and journalism. Our class also cannot seem to shy away from more education, though as one of my peers wrote, it has been difficult finding graduate school programs that “live up to the passion, dedication, and brilliance that defines CSSers.” Nevertheless, we have enrolled in graduate programs for law, economics, philosophy, public policy, urban planning, global history, and medicine (this list is probably incomplete).
We are now beginning our “fifth year out” from graduation. Certain memories of Wesleyan are fading (some, of course, like what we did to celebrate our completion of Comps are fading faster than others) and our lives are filled with current hopes and struggles and new weekly readings and assignments. It is my hope, however, that we as CSSers can remember the importance of being colorful and contentious in our intellectual arguments as well as remain excited and in touch with each other about our lives and goals.
Sophie Woolston ‘03
Reflections of a Dean
I came to Wesleyan in the fall of 1970, as the sophomore government tutor. I have been teaching in the CSS more or less continuously ever since, making me one of the longest serving tutors currently active in the program, second only (I think) to Peter Kilby. During the past decade or two, I have mainly served as the sophomore colloquium tutor and as chair or co-chair, though a few years ago I had one of the most wonderful and memorable experiences of my life teaching a fabulous group of CSS seniors in the “junior” colloquium, which they had to take as seniors since they had missed it because they were studying abroad in the fall of their junior year. All in all, I have been engaged with every aspect of the program for a very long time.
In the fall of 2005 I became Dean of the Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs, and so came to have yet another relationship to the College. I am still very much involved in the College, having taught the sophomore colloquium in the fall, directing two CSS senior essays and a CSS senior thesis, and serving as an academic advisor in the CSS. But now I work with all of the social science departments and most of the interdisciplinary programs to ensure that they have the resources they need to meet their goals, and to support new ideas and initiatives in these areas. From that perspective, the CSS looks even stronger than it does from the inside.
You all know that increasing specialization has marked the academy for the past 150 or 200 years, accelerating every year. Not so long ago (until 1969), Wesleyan had something of a core curriculum, representing the faculty’s view of what an educated person should know, what literature he (and I use that term advisedly) should have read, what ideas he should be conversant with. That world passed away 40 years ago. Today it is difficult (though by no means impossible) to find the broad survey courses that were the core of a liberal education in the past. And, not surprisingly, many people – both alumni and faculty – have come to fear that a program like the CSS could not survive. New faculty were being trained to be specialists, focusing on ever narrower questions, and graduate programs of study became increasingly narrowed, dropping requirements that PhD students master foreign languages and complete minors in other academic disciplines. In this climate, they asked, where can we find people with the broad training and interdisciplinary interests that the CSS represents?
The good news is that growing specialization has been tempered by growing interdisciplinarity. Young faculty recognize that some of the most promising areas of research lie along disciplinary boundaries, and they have cultivated those areas. As a result, collaborative research and teaching have grown partly in response to increasing levels of specialization. And the CSS has flourished. Younger faculty who might initially have been reluctant to teach in the CSS have consistently found it to be enormously rewarding and stimulating. Part of the reason for that is the different relationship we have to our students, especially in the sophomore year, in which we serve as their teachers and do not give them grades. Part of the reason is that CSS students have taken a common curriculum, and so we can know and build on their earlier experiences, developing courses that are more challenging and stimulating. And part of the reason is that the CSS provides a setting in which faculty and students are encouraged to look at questions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, and employ a wide range of methodologies, so it is intellectually exciting to participate in the program.
All in all, I think we can say that not only is the future of the CSS secure, but that it continues to be one of Wesleyan’s jewels.
The Next Edition
Robert Gelardi has graciously volunteered to serve as the Editor for next year’s Newsletter. He succeeds Guy Baehr ’68, Ruth Jaffe ’83, Jeremy Sacks ‘91 and Li Yu ’99. Soliciting contributions and then obtaining the finished product is not, it turns out, a slam-dunk. Bob has agreed to take up the task if we accept his ingenious proposal that we shift to a regime where each issue has its own editor, spreading the burden and maximizing the enthusiasm.
It is fitting that Bob, a member of the College’s first graduating class in 1962, has chosen “Our Golden Anniversary: The First 50 Years” as the focus for his issue. Needless to say, next year is the fiftieth anniversary of our founding. He would like to commission an essay by a graduate from each of those decades reflecting on their perspective on the world they entered and the part their CSS education played in the world they entered and in their ongoing lives.
If you are willing to explore this possibility, please email Bob at: