I am sure many of you have seen the headlines about the boycott of Israeli academic institutions by several higher education associations. A number of you have asked about our position on this issue, and if we will take action against associations or faculty who support the boycott.
This is an issue of utmost importance to our college; a free and respectful exchange of ideas and viewpoints is at the very heart of a liberal arts education. If we hope to teach our students to be critical and independent thinkers, and if we hope to advance our mission to nurture thoughtful citizens and leaders committed to the future of democracy, we must do everything we can to protect the freedom of faculty and students to express their ideas without religious, political or institutional restrictions.
In the spirit of academic freedom, we do not dissociate from organizations with which we disagree, nor do we keep faculty members from affiliating with them. In that same spirit, however, we will not support or participate in any event that excludes scholars because of their citizenship or other factors listed in UT Austin’s nondiscrimination policy.
Last month I posted a statement on the boycott in our website’s news section. There is much at stake here for the future of our universities, so I encourage our alumni to remain informed on the issue and help lead a respectful exchange of ideas.
Liberal Arts ROI
More good news about liberal arts graduates in the working world: A report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows humanities and social-science majors in their peak earning years out-earning peers from professional and pre-professional majors. Many of these older liberal arts graduates also hold graduate degrees, which also help boost their earning potential.
This is not to suggest that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines are a lesser career choice. Indeed, the liberal arts are “liberal,” that is, “broad,” because they include many STEM disciplines, ranging from anthropology and economics to psychology and sociology.
The liberal arts can give a student in any field—humanities, arts, science, education, business, government—knowledge and skills that will serve them in the long term. As my colleague and our Senior Associate Dean Richard Flores noted in his recent blog: “the only skills that won’t be obsolete in 2035 are those acquired through a liberal arts education…We don’t know what the demand for engineers and business-trained workers will be in 2035, but we do know that we will need individuals who can think independently, solve problems, be flexible in the way they approach new and changing situations and understand the value of continuing to learn throughout their career.”
As students among family and friends consider their options for a college education, I hope you will share with them the benefits of your own liberal arts education. I also hope you will share your stories with us as we continue to tell the world about the benefits of a liberal arts education at The University of Texas at Austin.