The Humanities as Service Departments: Facing the Budget Logic

Christopher Newfield:

What kind of budgetary future do the humanities have in public universities? Dire predictions have been around for years and take many plausible forms (Donoghue), including the retreat of humanities research into wealthy private universities for the dwindling leisure class. In this piece I focus on what I believe to be the most likely public university trajectory: the closure that converts a combined research and instructional department into a service unit. My approach here reflects my reluctant conclusion that most faculty members outside the humanities would accept this conversion of the humanities into a domain that teaches a range of basic skills. Since I began to study university budgets through an academic senate position fifteen years ago, cross-disciplinary inequalities have worsened, but I have in general not found faculty members to be much more interested in addressing them than are academic managers. Thus I’m going to be a bit less polite about competing faculty disciplinary interests than I have been in the past.