One of my (guilty?) pleasures is to pause from time to time outside our classrooms, and listen to the lectures going on within. What I hear is so intriguing across the spectrum of our College’s disciplines, that the devaluation and, alongside it, the threat of defunding the Arts and Humanities seem ever out-of-step with the core and reach of human achievement. What those of us at the university risk forgetting, in turn, is that our fields hold not just academic, but also popular appeal: visit a museum on a free day, or attend a Shakespeare play or opera or dance performance in the park, and you’ll witness a mass of spectators.
Having returned to the classroom this semester to teach a literature course, I was (not guiltily) immersed in the experience so well defined by Professor Genaro Padilla, Chair of the English Department at U.C. Berkeley. In that department’s Winter 2016 newsletter, Padilla writes that "Every day in our classrooms, we have space to press the pause button and reflect; space to see the world from multiple points of view; space to argue with the world as it’s been given to us, and … to imagine new worlds into being.” More than imagine, I dare say, we actually construct those worlds by inspiring, in our students, a passion for the Arts and Humanities; composing creative work and research; and promoting and supporting our College through the ARC. Whatever the current climate, this collective feat merits celebration.