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Does the U.S. need Public Universities? – Dean’s Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities

February 13, 2018, 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm


We welcome Christopher Newfield from the University of California, Santa Barbara, to speak on his book, The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them. A reception will follow the lecture.

When we think about universities today, we often make the mistake of seeing them as rising and falling on the inexorable tides of history: in the post-war democratic expansion, public universities rose; now, in the ongoing contraction of neoliberal post-democracy, they decline. This seductive view takes the university’s own agency out of the picture, and distracts us from our own policy mistakes and their results. This paper will identify those key mistakes and show that, if they are fixed, a redesigned public university can be the central driver in reconstructing a just and sustainable American society. It will also argue that, when redesigned, the public university will enjoy the broad popular support in both red and blue states that it is currently squandering.

Chris Newfield is professor of literature and American Studies where he applies his interdisciplinary background to the analysis of a range of topics in American Studies, innovation theory, and “critical university studies,” a field which he helped to found.

Chris’ books include Mapping Multiculturalism (edited with Avery Gordon), The Emerson Effect: Individualism and Submission in America (Chicago, 1996), Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University, 1880-1980 (Duke, 2003), and Unmaking the Public University: The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class (Harvard, 2008). His writing covers American political psychology, race relations, the future of solar energy, and the power of humanities-based investigation. He teaches courses on Detective Fiction, Global California, Innovation Studies, Critical Theory, the Future of Higher Education, and English Majoring After College among others. He blogs on higher education funding and policy at Remaking the University, the Huffington Post, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.


February 13, 2018
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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College of Letters & Science


UWM Golda Meir Library, 4th Floor Conference Center
2311 East Hartford Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211 United States
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