Nov. 2, 2000
Vol. 20 No. 4

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    Year-long colloquium will examine state of universities

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    A year-long public colloquium titled “The Idea of the University” will begin next week with the first of three conversations that will broadly examine the state of universities, including Chicago’s distinctive historical character.

    The first discussion, titled “The Idea of the University, Take One––The Genius of This Place,” will begin at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, in the third-floor lecture room of Swift Hall. Donald Levine, the Peter B. Ritzma Professor in Sociology and the College, will deliver the first lecture and Amy Kass, Senior Lecturer in the Humanities Collegiate Division, will moderate a post-lecture discussion with panelists and the audience.

    The New Collegiate Division and Student Government are sponsoring the colloquium, which has been organized by Kass; Levine; Dennis Hutchinson, the William Rainey Harper Professor in the College; Mark Oreglia, Associate Professor in Physics; and Robert Perlman, Professor in Pediatrics.

    “This colloquium is part of the ongoing self-assessment that is part of the lifeblood of this institution,” said Hutchinson, noting that the colloquium is in part an outgrowth of and parallel to the recent assessment of general education requirements in the College.

    “Our obsession with undergraduate and general education of late has tended to deflect attention from larger ongoing concerns between undergraduate and graduate education,” said Hutchinson. “And the arrival of the new president makes it doubly propitious to discipline that conversation in a forward-looking way.”

    Kass said, “The colloquium is intended to reopen fundamental question about the nature and purpose of universities, historically and currently, beginning with a look at our own university’s self-understanding.”

    Members of the discussion panel for the first session are James Redfield, the Edward Olson Distinguished Service Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures; Geoffrey Stone, Provost of the University and the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School; and Jonathan Smith, the Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities.

    Levine said of his upcoming presentation, “In order to stay true to their missions, universities must search their souls to withstand such threats as galloping specializations, academic bureaucratization, government interference and, above all, the temptation to succumb to the tyranny of the market. I will ask, ‘What are the qualities of this place that have given us a soul worth saving and a fighting chance to save it?’”

    Hanna Gray, President Emerita and the Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor Emerita in History, will deliver the second lecture, “The University in History,” on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2001. President Randel will conclude the series in the Spring Quarter when he presents “The University in the Future” on Wednesday, April 4, 2001.

    All three lectures will follow the same format, which will include a lecture, remarks from panelists, audience discussion and a reception. Organizers plan to publish the lectures and discussions from the three-part series.