Closing Roundtable: Feminist Students Saving the Humanities

Closing Roundtable: 4:00-4:45, Lee Lounge, Pyle Center

Feminist Students Saving the Humanities and Resisting Public University Privatization at Purdue Northwest

After two years of faculty opposition, in 2016, two Purdue University satellite campuses merged to form a “new” school, Purdue University Northwest (PNW). By fall 2018, Provost, Ralph Mueller, a recent external hire, plunged the university into a Strategic Resource Allocation (SRA) self-study based on Robert Dickeson’s book, Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services. In spring 2019, two committees, one faculty and one low-level staff, tasked with analyzing data submitted by the university’s academic and “service” units recommended ending TRIO programs, which are federally funded initiatives serving “individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds,” and the English Literature Concentration (major). Most humanities curricula were ranked low, indicating they would probably be severely curtailed or eliminated. Then feminist students took action, catalyzing opposition that captured media attention and prompted the Senate Faculty to denounce the report. Ultimately, the project was dropped. This presentation contextualizes the PNW experience in a series of troubling assaults on higher education, especially the humanities, occurring across the country, documenting the strategies these attacks are using and methods of resisting them, and invites discussion from other faculty, academic staff, and students facing similar issues.

  • Leah Medema, Co-Chair, Purdue Intersectional Feminist Alliance, Purdue University Calumet
  • Colette Morrow, Professor, English and WGSS, Purdue University Northwest