Why I'm not afraid of Virginia Woolf – or the 'crisis' in the humanities

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I have been hearing about the so-called crisis in the humanities since I first considered going to graduate school to become a professor back in the late 1980s. Now, more than 25 years later, I barely earn what I could have made as a management trainee back then. And yet, the only time I doubt the value of what I do is when I read yet another op-ed identifying a crisis in the humanities.

There are many deeply troubling things going on in higher education today. College education costs too much. Student loan debt cripples young people's choices and hopes. Private education is increasingly out of the reach of the vanishing middle class. Meanwhile, public education has been gutted by state legislatures. Experiments with online and for-profit higher education have not delivered on initial hopes.

University administrators have grown in number, and their corporate-size salaries dwarf what faculty members make. At the same time, universities have grown increasingly reliant on contingent faculty members, highly educated adjuncts making less than a living wage. The picture is not pretty. Reform is urgently needed.

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