What Mark Lilla Misses

To the Editor:

The timing of Mark Lilla’s “How Colleges are Strangling Liberalism” (August 20), roughly a week after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, coupled with the subtitle of the article, “An obsession with identity has made students less likely to engage with a world beyond themselves,” seems intended to fan the flames of our national debate about white supremacy and to blame the left for its visible resurgence.

Martha S. Jones’ response to Lilla, published August 24, appropriately …

Notions of What ‘Success’ Entails in a Doctoral Program Are Antiquated

To the Editor:

I was pleased to see Jim Grossman’s terrific article, “Imagining Ph.D. Orientation in 2022” (The Chronicle, August 28).  I feel compelled to add, however, that I attended a Ph.D. program (the Editorial Institute at Boston University) which explicitly pioneered the kind of program that Grossman imagines. The director of the program said during orientation that we should not expect to have a traditional career on the tenure-track, but rather to learn principles of editing, textual …

Librarians Should Accept Fact That Most Books Aren’t Available In Digital Format

To the Editor:

While I appreciate the balance you attempted in your piece, “As Libraries Go Digital, Costs Remain Tangible” (The Chronicle, August 13), you really should have talked to faculty members as well. For us — especially in the humanities — library administrators seem to be living in their own world, and it’s a very different one from ours. There are lots of problems with the brave new digital world. Most books, especially foreign ones, aren’t available in digital format, and l…

Open-Access Platforms Are Key to Research Libraries’ Core Mission

To the Editor:

Your article, “Elsevier Is Becoming a Data Company. Should Universities Be Wary?” (The Chronicle, August 7), evokes the existential questions for research libraries that members of the Association of Research Libraries routinely confront: What is the library’s role in the research enterprise, beyond purchasing and licensing content? How can libraries support scholarly workflow at all stages of the research life cycle, including preservation and stewardship of research outputs? A…

Don’t Absolve Postmodernism So Quickly

To the Editor:

In his recent article, “Stop Blaming Postmodernism for Post-Truth Politics” (The Chronicle Review, August 4), Andrew J. Perrin argues that detractors hold up a shallow caricature of postmodernism and an “exaggerated estimation of its effects.”

He provides a nice, if dense, description of the correct way to interpret postmodern theory and then accuses detractors of “pining for a space safe from power and contention.” He says we have to face up to the reality of radical complexi…

Purdue’s Move to Make Kaplan Exempt From Public-Records Access Raises Red Flags

To the Editor:

Good story on the mysterious animal new to science that Purdue and Kaplan have dredged from the bog (“Purdue Wins State Approval for Controversial Deal With Kaplan U.,The Chronicle, August 10). I think Bob Shireman is basically right, but it is hard to understand the internal hydraulics of this new entity. The biggest smell comes from the elimination of public-records access. It is hard to imagine a redder flag than information secrecy.

Alan Contreras
Eugene, Ore.

Basic Research Is Undermined by Pursuing Its Usefulness

To the Editor:

In his reflections on the new little book, The Usefulness of ‘Useless’ Knowledge, the president of Macalester College, Brian Rosenberg, draws a key lesson across the decades for the sciences (“What I’m Reading,The Chronicle, April 23). One cannot predict which discoveries in basic research will in time become the foundation for entirely new industries and immense economic growth. It would be foolish to try. Quantum physics would be an example, now the basis for about 30 percent …

Public Interest Not Served by Forced Secrecy in Presidential Searches

To the Editor:

Our research on executive search firm contracts underscores the issues raised in your recent article on the openness of presidential searches (“Secret Meetings and Aliases in a Presidential Search Rekindle Debate About Openness,The Chronicle, August 8). We’ve written about our findings for a series that The Chronicle published over the past year. These for-profit, often privately held, firms have all but taken over the searches for university presidents as well as other lesser …

A Better Way to Diversify an Academic Field

To the Editor:

Let me put the record straight: Many medievalists have been diversifying the field for years (“Medievalists, Recoiling From White Supremacy, Try to Diversify the Field,The Chronicle, July 16). Twenty-five years ago, when I was a graduate student at Cambridge and attending a seminar on early editions of Chaucer, the professor of Medieval and Renaissance studies asked me what my research area was about. I told him that I was a Bohemist (someone who studies Czech culture). “And wha…

One Person Alone Can’t Save an HBCU

To the Editor:

Those who believe that HBCUs need presidents as saviors are making a serious mistake. Black colleges need first and foremost competent boards of trustees, great provosts, outstanding deans and department chairs, and an active and engaged alumni network. This is the foundation upon which a talented CFO and development officer and finally a president should be added. Without a strong academic and financial base, no president can succeed at any university, HBCU or otherwise.

It is a …