A Message from the Dean
Dear Humanities Students,
As this academic year began I wrote to welcome you to what promised to be a challenging semester as we adjusted to new ways of teaching and learning. We were also challenged by the Black Lives Matter movement to reflect on the systemic racism of our culture and unacceptable inequities in access to economic opportunity, health care and justice itself. Now as this extraordinary year is nearing its conclusion, we can look forward to a return to a more familiar academic life as we plan for an in-person graduation, however limited, and for Fall classes that will actually bring you on to campus. But, unfortunately, we are also facing another chapter in our long-standing struggle against racism and intolerance in the current outbreak of attacks on Asian-Americans. We are reminded that anti-Asian prejudice has a long history in the United States and we need to recognize and respond to these current outrages in the context of past actions and events, some of which have occurred in our own state. In 2019 Utah commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike, the completion of the transcontinental railroad; we celebrated the iconic moment of westward expansion and technological progress, but we also reflected on how different communities were impacted by this enterprise, including our state’s indigenous people and the largely Chinese labor force. In 2007 the site of the Topaz Internment Camp, outside of Delta, was declared a National Historic Landmark, acknowledging the racism and xenophobia that led our country to imprison Americans of Japanese descent.
Building and sustaining a genuinely inclusive community requires hard work and long-term commitment. We need in moments such as this to recognize the dark corners of our past and the persistence of intolerance and prejudice if we are to overcome them. In the disciplines of the Humanities we are committed to research and teaching that contributes to this labor. And we hope that we can impart to our students the tools, skills and ambition to help build a better future. We believe in the importance of learning how to communicate across audiences and media—and to be critically aware of the ways the media operate; of listening to the voices of people with diverse perspectives and experiences; of reasoning clearly and cogently, particularly when it comes to making ethical choices; of understanding the complexities of historical contexts and global relations; and, perhaps most importantly, of nourishing the creativity that allow us to envision alternatives ways of being human.
I look forward to seeing those of you who will be graduating this Spring in Rice-Eccles Stadium; and, for those of you returning to classes in the Fall, I hope you will rediscover on our campus a transformative learning experience.
Dean, College of Humanities
University of Utah