Liberal Education

From the Editor: Raising Our Voices

As I planned this issue—which highlights sessions from AAC&U’s 2019 annual meeting, “Raising Our Voices: Reclaiming the Narrative on the Value of Higher Education”—I was reading essays by A. Bartlett Giamatti. President of Yale from 1978 to 1986, Giamatti produced many inspiring words about the importance of a liberal education. But the particular essays of his that I had saved for the dark cold of February were ostensibly on another topic: baseball. I was reading them in anticipation of spring training and the promise of sunshine and green fields and hummingbirds returned from southern climes.

Giamatti became commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1988, and in writing about the game, he explored morality, integrity, and even the essentialness of a liberal education to a fulfilled mind and spirit. He considered baseball as leisure, noting in Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games that in Greek, leisure is scholé—the origins of the English word school. The classical concepts of leisure, he writes, parallel the purposes of a modern liberal education: “In pure play, liberal study, and ‘free time’—a condition of freedom of spirit is actively induced and consumed, as nourishment. . . . The result is to be careless, or carefree. It is to be happy.”

Giamatti directly connects baseball, a game that draws fans from all walks of life, to the existential necessity of a liberal education. His example is an important one. As discussed throughout the annual meeting, higher education institutions need to better demonstrate and communicate their value, in general, and the importance of a liberal education, in particular. This issue’s authors further that discussion. Cathy N. Davidson calls for fundamentally changing the way we view higher education’s purpose; Farah Pandith points to the role of colleges and universities in ensuring more women participate in policy making; and Mays Imad presses for making STEM classes more holistic and creative. Ann Kowal Smith describes a program that facilitates literature discussions in the workplace. Frederick M. Lawrence explains why institutions must engage in nonpartisan, mission-based advocacy, with William T. Bolling offering advice on communicating with lawmakers. Raynard S. Kington talks about fostering cooperative approaches to campus activism. And
Lily D. McNair looks at creating real change around diversity and inclusion.

Giamatti, who died in 1989 just weeks after banning Pete Rose for life from baseball, worked to preserve the integrity and ideals of professional baseball and of other national institutions. A liberal education, freedom, and order, he wrote in a letter to Yale freshmen in 1981, “must be asserted at this particular time in our country’s history, in the teeth of a storm that blows across the landscape. . . . There are now in America powerful voices which attack and will continue to attack these very ideas.” Giamatti’s admonishment could have been spoken today. Indeed, we must speak up and make clear the power of a liberal education.

Thank You

This issue, which focuses on AAC&U’s 2019 annual meeting, could not be a more appropriate place to pay tribute to Suzanne Hyers, our longtime senior director of the annual meeting. After working at AAC&U for nearly thirty years, she has decided to use her extraordinary talents to write a new chapter for this next phase of her life.

Always modest and shunning the spotlight, Suzanne was the invisible maestro behind the annual meeting. She coordinated the meeting logistics through legendary lists and cross lists, maintaining a vision of how all the pieces fit together. Suzanne also contributed ideas for the rich design and variety of sessions, as well as for speakers, especially those who would bring a provocative, fresh perspective.

With the late Lee Knefelkamp, Suzanne shepherded the development of the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award. She orchestrated ways the recipients could benefit from the annual meeting as well as offer transformative visions for the future of higher education.

Distinguished for her integrity, indefatigable work ethic, and deep devotion to AAC&U’s mission, she strove to recognize staff colleagues, especially those who were not the public face of the association but whom she knew were key to making the wheels on AAC&U’s bus go round. We honor Suzanne for the journey she has carried the association on for twenty-eight years and wish her bon voyage on this next journey of her own making.

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