Tuesday, January 20, 2009

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: U.S. Grant Marches South Again

Subtitle: "SIU Loses Archives to Mississipi State University."

Read here

No human being is perfect but John Y. Simon was the most public face of SIU to the world. I said so before the controversy that led to his "not being fired" (he's fired, he's not fired, he's dead, the millions of dollars spent to build this collection are . . . gone to Dixie).

John Y. (as he was known) taught a subject enormously popular with students and the public at large: Civil War and Reconstruction history. Not as fashionable as gender or "queer studies." Yet I'm convinced that many students majored in History because they were "turned on" to it by JYS (so they told me during my five years as academic adviser to undergraduates).

Budget cuts and professional fads make it unlikely SIU will hire a Civil War or military or presidential historian any time soon. As the deep thinkers in my profession say, "that would be pandering." Why give the students a little of what they want? It's not as if they are going to influence much of our curriculum anyway. (In other colleges, if the demand for nursing is up, they hire more nursing professors. The liberal arts doesn't work that way. We are "different").

SIU will be different without the Grant Papers and John Y. Simon. What the school needs is scholars of stature who can reach out to the wider public, as he did. Many try, few succeed.

PS: The Ulysses Grant Association is still listed on SIUC's index of organizations. If you click on the link you will be "404'd":

NOTE: The moderator is busy going over his copyedited book manuscript. The pace will slacken in the next week but important news will be blogged about sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.

No comments: