DavidTheoGoldberg

The Present and Future of the University: An Interview with David Theo Goldberg

During a recent trip to Toronto and environs, UCHRI director David Theo Goldberg sat down with Grace Pollack, director of the Public Intellectuals Project at McMasters University, to talk about the state of the humanities, past, present and future. The outtakes below give a taste of the range of topics covered by their freewheeling conversation.  To read the full interview, go to truthout.org

ON BUDGET CUTS AND THE HUMANITIES

“Those cuts to the humanities have meant that there is an inordinate pressure – and it is as much conceptual as it is economic – in how one thinks about what the humanities does. And those who want to hold onto an older vision, a kind of conventional vision of humanistic research, are swimming against a very strong stream, a very strong current, and I think it’s a losing proposition at this point.”

ON CONNECTING BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER

“The form of the public has changed, too, and how one gets to publics has changed. And so, face-to-face – not unimportant – is not the only face of public life that we have today. The radio was there before, then television, now there’s digital media and so on. And it is giving us platforms that allow us a vast array of public engagement and interaction.”

ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE UNIVERSITY

“The university, after all, is about the universal. It is about an engagement with all knowledge, but also, through that engagement, engaging with all people. It is, by definition, and ought to be, heterogeneous. It hasn’t always lived up to that responsibility, from its inception – I mean, the university comes out of the church, after all. But yes, I think there’s kind of constitutive responsibility on the part of the university and its representatives to be about the world, and to be in and with the world, and that means that we ought to engage – we ought to face the world, and in facing the world, to engage each other.”

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANITIES TRAINING AND THE WORLD OF WORK

“It is interesting that a vice president of Google said last year that out of the 6,000 people they would be hiring this year, 80 percent of them will have backgrounds in the humanities. They want well-rounded, culturally savvy, multilingual employees because they’re a global business. They get it, and we don’t. So, what is it that they’re getting that we’re missing, and how do we reconfigure? What do we do not to simply service them, but to provide an interesting critical engagement around these sets of questions and be systematic about the form of tension we bring?”

About the author

Jennifer is UCHRI's Associate Director for Research Development and External Relations. When she's not working to make $#!+ happen for the humanities, she's either lounging poolside, hanging with her pugs, or - what else? - writing. She's the author of Caught in the Crossfire: Adrian Scott and the Politics of Americanism in 1940s Hollywood (Columbia UP, 2007) and is currently working on her first novel, a historical noir titled The File on Margot Black.