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On Campus: The Weigh-In

Faculty experts shed light on news that makes us go, “wha?”

THE NEWS:

In September 2015, the Japanese government called upon its national universities to close or convert humanities and social sciences programs in order to focus on “areas that better meet society’s needs,” after which 26 of the 60 national universities with such programs said they would comply. What kind of an impact could eliminating humanities programs have on a society?

Illustration by Barry Fitzgerald, MFA ’90

THE EXPERT:

Graham Hammill, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School

It’s important to understand that universities help societies thrive economically. It’s part of what we do, but it’s not all that we do. We help students live full lives as individuals and as citizens, to be intelligent when confronting the complex ethical choices that life throws at them, and to be able to process information and think in nuanced ways about current events. The idea that higher education is simply job training is truly short-sighted. But I’m not worried that we’re going to become a society of unthinking, un-self-reflective robots. People want to have deeper understandings of themselves and of the world around them. I simply don’t think trying to do away with the humanities is going to work.