Emily J. Levine, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Jingjing Lou, Beloit College
Jason Owen-Smith, University of Michigan
For the AHA 2019 we propose bringing together scholars in history, sociology, and comparative higher education to offer reflections and spark discussion about the nature of the academic social contract—its past, and most important, its future. Closely connected to the AHA’s theme “loyalties” our panel asks whom does the university serve and how has that purpose changed over time? How does thinking about private and public benefits help our understanding of the university’s purpose and the rightful source of its funding? As social scientists across the disciplinary spectrum how does the university shape our disciplines and, conversely, how do our own methodologies help us parse the institution in which we make our home? If the contract between the university and the state embodied in the German-inspired American “Humboldt model” has run out what other institutional models exist? How has this development played out differently in post-communist societies and developing nations? And how might a global history of the university impact our approach to the current challenges facing this institution today?
This roundtable aims to bridge the sociological-historical disciplinary divide to begin to think about these questions critically. Drawing on rigorous disciplinary scholarship and motivated by our commitment to “public history” and the “public humanities,” we also aim to think about how our work impacts the institutions in our society and how we might draw on that scholarship to improve them.