Letter from the Dean
Dear Humanities students,
By now you will have learned that the University plans to open its doors to in-person classes and on-campus experiences this Fall. We are reopening at a challenging time and under complicated circumstances and I wanted to take this opportunity to assure you that our college – and the University community more broadly – will be devoting all its energies to ensuring that our campus and classrooms are safe, healthy, inclusive and welcoming to students from all backgrounds. We want you to look forward this coming semester as an intellectually engaging and transformative experience.
As I write, the more violent reactions to recent – and long-standing – injustices and outrages to human dignity are now giving way to peaceful and reflective gatherings. This is a moment for us to reflect on core human values, on questions of equity and community and on the institutions we have created to promote and preserve our values. This reflection is at the heart of what we do in the Humanities and, in one way or another, all of our courses encourage students to recognize the times when we feel the tensions between a society’s professed values and the cultural practices and institutions designed to foster them, and when we must recognize that individuals experience the same social world differently. This is after all what makes the stories we read and write matter to us; these are the moments historians examine, the ethical and logical problems that philosophers explore, the situations that call urgently for the ability to communicate effectively and to distinguish carefully between truth and misinformation. All this is to say that in the Fall we will be encouraging reasoned and respectful conversations in all our Humanities classes, exchanges that appreciate the range of cultural perspectives, recognize historical contexts and emphasize the capacity to listen and acknowledge other voices as well the ability to articulate clearly and forcefully one’s own understanding.
Of course, the campus you are all returning to won’t be completely familiar. The COVID pandemic will continue to compel us to make concessions for the safety and health of all – fellow students, faculty, advisors and other staff members. We are seeking to put practices in place that will consider the unique circumstances of every group and this means that we are going to find new ways to teach and to learn. The University is publishing guidelines for on-campus safety (e.g. when to wear masks, how to practice social distancing) and we encourage you to read and follow them. In the meantime, we will need your patience and flexibility. Some of your classes will be fully online but, particularly as Humanities students, many of your classes will be a hybrid mix of online and live experiences. Some of them may be relocated in time and space as we work to implement social distancing practices. Some of these changes in how we teach may just be adjustments for the moment, others may reflect the curriculum of the future, so you should know that we are always open to hearing constructive criticism from you as we experiment with new ways of providing both coursework and student services. As you hear so frequently, we are all going through a moment of improvisation and change together and I encourage you to join us this Fall in genuinely making the most of this opportunity to reopen and revitalize the University and your personal educational journey.
Stuart K. Culver
Dean, College of Humanities
University of Utah