Back in the 1970s, when I was leaving for college, my mother gave me a piece of advice: “Don’t sign anything.” Her skepticism was forged in the 1950s, when petitions that public figures had signed as students, and organizations they had belonged to, had sometimes destroyed their lives. In college, however, I discovered the thrill … More Why Taking a Stand on the Internet Can Turn a Problem Into a Catastrophe
This year I turned 60, a birthday that starts a whole series of internal clocks ticking: five years to Medicare (if it still exists); ten years until full social security benefits (if they still exist). Then there is the realization that the end of my life is, while not imminent, approaching. According to the benefits … More On Beyond the Academy
On June 10, 2018, Doug Bennet, a historian, political aide, assistant secretary in the State Department, former president of National Public Radio and—most importantly to me—president of Wesleyan University, died at the age of 79. It’s rare that you see someone bring such a rich background to the executive office of a liberal arts college, but after a … More Remembering a Campus Free Speech Fight
The mass hiring of women into higher education, beginning in the 1970s, is one of the great affirmative-action success stories. Although universities have simultaneously done a remarkably poor job of cultivating, hiring, and promoting scholars of color, and although the natural sciences, economics, and philosophy remain defiantly male, the status of women in higher education … More What Affirmative Action Didn’t Change
Two weeks ago, I published a conversation with an old friend about the possibilities for curbing gun violence following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, an incident that left 17 teachers and students dead. Many other students, despite being wounded and traumatized, have stepped forward to lead a social movement … More Teachers Are Not Soldiers
At the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association, I was lucky enough to moderate a conversation between Earl Lewis, the outgoing President of the Mellon Foundation, and William D. “Bro” Adams, the former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The conversation had actually begun a few weeks earlier, at Mellon, an … More Are the Humanities Really in Crisis?
This post was originally published at Public Seminar on February 7, 2018 When people ask me what I am teaching this semester, I bury the lede. I first describe my exciting, five-section strong introduction to Internet studies. Then there is the big reveal: “I am also teaching a core course in our history graduate program,” … More Why We Return to Certain Books Like Clockwork
This post was originally published at Public Seminar on January 17, 2018. In the coming weeks, I want to write more about the meaning of free speech, how we understand free speech differently depending on how and where we are positioned, and whether our difficulty in listening to–and understanding–each other is a crucial context for … More The Campus Speech Wars