Humanities NOW: Public Universities, Legislatures, and Academic Freedom

Dr. Michael Bernard-Donals, the Executive Director of the CTRW, will be speaking at the upcoming “Humanities NOW” event through the Center for the Humanities at UW-Madison to discuss public universities, legislatures, and academic freedom. The event takes place April 10, 2024 from 5:30-7 in Elvehjem Building, Room L140. Please see a description of the event from the Center for the Humanities below.

What does it mean to be a public university? Or rather, what does it mean to be a public university today? Please join us for a dynamic, timely conversation on the external pressures facing public institutions such as UW-Madison. Panelists will offer thoughts on what academic freedom is (and what it isn’t) and how these freedoms are linked to issues like tenure and shared governance. We’ll take a historical perspective to show how the current pressures fit within a longer arc of history within and beyond Wisconsin, especially as the landscape of public higher education has grown arguably more fraught, characterized by an extraordinary level of distrust on all sides. We’ll ask: should public universities be accountable to others and, if so, to whom and to what extent?  We’ll also share personal and present perspectives about what the current pressures look like on-the-ground within departments and among students. Topics will include the recent deal that was struck between State legislators and UW System leadership, DEI, academic freedom, the resignation of leaders at other academic institutions, and what we stand to lose—or gain—in all of this.

Panelists include:

  • Michael Bernard-Donals: Chaim Perelman Professor of Rhetoric and Culture and Executive Director, Center for Teaching and Research in Writing, UW-Madison, and Board of Directors and Steering Committee member, PROFS
  • Patricia Brady: Former General Counsel of the University of Wisconsin System and author of A History of the University of Wisconsin System (University of Wisconsin Press)
  • Harry Brighouse: Mildred Fish Harnack Professor of Philosophy and Carol Dickson Bascom Professor of the Humanities, Department of Philosophy, UW-Madison
  • Brittney Edmonds: Assistant Professor, Department of African American Studies, UW-Madison
  • Armando Ibarra: Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the School for Workers, Department of Labor Education, and Professor, Chican@ and Latin@ Studies, UW-Madison
  • Moderated by Russ Castronovo, Director, Center for the Humanities and Tom Paine Professor of English, UW-Madison