Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dan Berrett traces the ongoing tension in American between visions of higher education “as a vehicle for intellectual development” and as a simple tool to prepare students for jobs. Citing Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth’s book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, Berrett shows how the debate over the value of a liberal education has evolved from the days of the Founding Fathers to W.E.B. Du bois and Booker T. Washington to today.
“A farmer reading the classics or an industrial worker quoting Shakespeare was at one time an honorable character. Today’s news stories lament bartenders with chemistry degrees. ‘Where once these “incongruities” might have been hailed as signs of a healthy republic,’ Mr. Roth writes, ‘today they are more likely to be cited as examples of a “wasted”—nonmonetized—education.'”
On Dec. 19, Wesleyan President Michael Roth signed an MOU with Beth Hamilton, at left, representing CONNSACS and Carissa Conway, at right, representing Women and Family Services (WFS) of Middletown.
Wesleyan seeks to strengthen sexual assault prevention and response programs by developing partnerships with local community resources.
On Dec. 19, President Michael Roth formalized a partnership with the Women and Families Center of Middletown (WFC) and Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc (CONNSACS) through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
This MOU formalizes the commitment of all three agencies to work together to provide trauma-informed services to student and employee victims of sexual assault and to improve the overall response to sexual assault at Wesleyan and within the greater Middletown community.
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The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a major profile on President Michael S. Roth, highlighting the “unusual” ways in which he uses his post to engage in public debates on the problems facing higher education, and what he sees as its future.
“He seems to revel in the debates about the future of education, speaking especially sharply against what he sees as ill-considered technological fixes that, as he said to me in an interview, ‘aim at conformity over thinking.’ Now he’s published a book [Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters] that examined the history of debates on the nature of higher education, and found that, while the details vary, we’ve been arguing about much the same thing for centuries,” writes David Perry ’95, an alumnus who had grown distant from Wesleyan before being drawn back by an alumni event featuring Roth on the topic “How to Destroy Higher Education.”
Perry writes, “In his writing, Roth seems to be trying to reshape the narrative of crisis and disruption in American higher education.” And while others have spoken out with similar views, “Roth has the power to actually effect change at one of America’s elite universities.”
Roth tells Perry about some of the changes coming to Wesleyan, including encouraging students to create a portfolio of work to show what they can do with their education, and making Wesleyan more accessible to a diverse population of students.
Scholars from Wesleyan and the Social Sciences in China Press gathered Dec. 10 to sign a memorandum of understanding. Pictured are, front row from left, Daimei Feng, Changbao Wei, Limin Wang, Michael Roth, Joyce Jacobsen, and Jennifer Tucker. Back row, from left, Guofei Chu, Bing Jiao, Qun Zhou, Gary Shaw, and Peter Rutland.
This month, Wesleyan signed a memorandum of understanding with the Social Sciences in China Press (SSCP), the publishing arm of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), which formalizes an ongoing partnership between the two institutions. The agreement calls for a biennial scholarly forum involving representatives from Wesleyan and SSCP; mutual advertising to help each gain recognition in the other’s home country; exchange visitors; and cross-publishing of content between Wesleyan’s international journal History and Theory and SSCP’s Historical Research.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is by far the most important center in China for studies in philosophy and the social sciences.
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As college admissions season heats up, President Michael Roth makes a case in The New Republic for a broad pragmatic liberal education. College should be seen not as a path to get their first jobs, he advises prospective students, but rather “as a remarkable opportunity to explore their individual and social lives in connection with the world in which they will live and work.”
President Michael Roth’s Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters
The Washington Post selected President Michael Roth‘s book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, on its list of top 50 notable works of nonfiction in 2014. A brief summary of the review states:
The president of Wesleyan University describes two distinct traditions of a liberal education–one philosophical and “skeptical,” the other rhetorical and “reverential”–and argues that both are necessary for educating autonomous individuals who can also participate with others.
Beyond the University was originally reviewed in the Post on May 23 by Christopher Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. In that review, Nelson calls the book “a substantial and lively discussion” as well as “an economical and nearly jargon-free account of liberal education in America.”
Amy Bloom’s Lucky Us
Two other members of the Wesleyan community were honored in the Post‘s “Top 50 Fiction Books for 2014.” The list included Lucky Us by Amy Bloom, distinguished university writer-in-residence and director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, and Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman ’86.
President Michael S. Roth and Professor Kari Weil have made a new six-figure gift to Wesleyan in support of endowment for financial aid, including a provision that royalties from President Roth’s latest book, Beyond the University, go to financial aid.
In announcing the gift, Joshua Boger ’73, chair of Wesleyan’s board of trustees, said: “This is the second major gift that Michael and Kari have made to Wesleyan’s campaign, and I am so grateful for their leadership and generosity. Their support of financial aid is particularly welcome because it underscores the University’s commitment to increasing access – the highest priority of our campaign. THIS IS WHY.”
Wesleyan has raised $125 million for scholarship endowment. Overall, Wesleyan’s generous supporters have contributed $354 million toward the campaign’s $400 million goal.
Roth established a policy of eliminating loans in favor of outright grants for most students with a family income below $60,000. The policy has also reduced the amount of loans required in all final aid packages by about 35 percent. This effort and all of Wesleyan’s financial aid grants, including a special scholarship program for veterans, are supported by gifts from alumni, parents and friends.
“Wesleyan continues to attract students of extraordinary potential from diverse economic backgrounds, meeting their full financial need,” says Roth. “The University’s commitment to financial aid fosters a campus community based on equality and freedom, where differences in the classroom emerge not from privilege, but from talent and effort.”
President Michael Roth appeared on CNN’s “Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield” to discuss the cost and value of higher education. The interview comes ahead of CNN’s premier Thursday, Nov. 20 at 9 p.m. EST of The Ivory Tower, a new documentary that asks, “Is college worth the cost?” Roth appears prominently in the film defending the importance of higher education. His appearance on Legal View began with a clip from the film in which he argues:
“Many intellectuals are saying it would be better if some people don’t go to college at all. I think that’s an assault on democracy and it’s an attempt to keep people in their place, and reinforce social inequality. Education should foster social mobility and the possibility of equality. You’ve got to be crazy to intentionally not get a college degree if you have a choice today. And if the college education is really a college education, and not just training in one particular little field, you learn how to learn, and that can actually open up new things in your life long after college.”
Asked by Banfield about the spiraling cost of higher education, Roth explained, “Costs have risen because people want the education, and there aren’t enough spots for those students. And it’s got to change.”
“The high sticker price is not what most people pay at the schools that have the highest tuition. At a place like Wesleyan, almost half of our students are on financial aid, and the average grant is over $30,000. But I think the problem that you point to, the increasing burden of student debt, is a national disgrace because it inhibits the ability of students to choose the careers after they leave college.”
On a recent visit to Memphis, where he spoke at Rhodes College, President Michael S. Roth was interviewed on WKNO by Jonathan Judaken about his book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. They began by discussing the difference between liberal and vocational education.
“A liberal education… is an education that is broad, contextual and integrative. What I mean by that is you not only learn the skill but you are coming to understand how that skill fits into context–into an economy, into a society, into politics. You are learning to situate yourself in the world, and not just to perform somebody else’s task,” Roth explained.
He defended the relevance of a liberal education for all:
“A liberal education is important in the development for the capacity for citizenship. It’s important for the development of creativity and critical thinking. These are not only elements that are relevant to people who go to elite private schools. They are relevant for anyone who is going to push back against oppression, who is going to critically evaluate their government, who is going to participate in their neighborhood.”
Wesleyan President Michael Roth recently spoke about “Why Liberal Arts Education Matters” as part of the 92nd Street Y (92Y) American Conversation series. 92Y connects people all over the world through culture, arts, entertainment and conversation.
In the Oct. 15 episode, New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni interviews Roth about the contentious debate over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education. In the interview, Roth, who is author of Beyond the University, Why Liberal Education Matters, makes the case for the great American tradition of humanistic education.
Watch a video of the conversation below:
Roth also discussed “The Future of Education” at the 92nd Street Y’s Social Good Summit on Sept. 21.
On Oct. 15, Wesleyan and City of Middletown officials met at City Hall in downtown Middletown to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on dealing with sexual assault.
The document details the responsibilities and procedures of the university, the city, and state law enforcement in handling assault cases. This document officially codifies long-standing campus and community cooperation around the issue of crime, sharing of training resources, and enhanced communication designed to support survivors of sexual assault.
“This memorandum is an important step toward even greater cooperation between Wesleyan, the State’s Attorney’s office and the City of Middletown,” said President Michael Roth.”On an issue as serious as sexual assault, we need to be proactive in preventing crime, in supporting survivors and prosecuting perpetrators. A close working relationship with city law enforcement will be highly beneficial.”
Pictured from left, signing the Memorandum of Understanding, are Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney for Middlesex County Peter McShane; Middletown Mayor Dan Drew and Wesleyan President Michael Roth. Absent but also instrumental in the development of the MOU is Middletown General Counsel Brig Smith.
Participants included: Front row, from left, Peter McShane; Mayor Dan Drew and President Michael Roth. Back row, from left, General Counsel and Secretary of the University David Winakor; Director of Public Safety Scott Rohde; Therapist/Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator Alysha Warren; Vice President for Equity and Inclusion/Title IX Officer Antonio Farias; Middletown Police Chief William McKenna and Middletown Police Deputy Chief Michael Timbro. (Photos by Olivia Drake)
In addition, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., came to Wesleyan Oct. 6 to hear students’ concerns about sexual violence, survivor support and penalties for perpetrators. In his discussions with students he shared details of legislation he has proposed to provide better frameworks on campuses for handling sexual assault cases. Read more in this past News @ Wesleyan article.
Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, President Michael S. Roth reflects on why Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, is still relevant 75 years after his death. Despite many of Freud’s ideas seeming to be of another era, Roth writes:
Freud haunts us. He keeps popping up in places he has no business being. Just when we succeeded in pushing him out of medicine because his brand of the talking cure was inconvenient for insurance and drug companies, he began appearing in college humanities programs, theater, novels, television. A generation ago, he animated Woody Allen’s jokes; more recently, we could find him in the The Sopranos, and today he is all over Mad Men.
And just when it seemed that we could dismiss him (with a laugh) from overly theoretical work by jargon-laden literary scholars, nostalgic noise arose from the psychiatric profession complaining about meds without baseline evaluations, insurance-driven mental-health treatment, and the need for patients to make meaning.