Friday, November 21, 2008

News From Comparative Media Studies at MIT

I never thought I'd see it, but Henry Jenkins is leaving Comparative Media Studies at MIT and moving to the Annenberg School at USC. The full story (or as full as will ever be made public, I'd guess) is on Henry's blog.

I express surprise, but in another way I'm not surprised at all. The whole time I was teaching in Course 21 at MIT I observed how little the Institute as a whole seems to value Humanities and Social Sciences. I had thought though that they might care more about supporting CMS because they have such a strong international reputation and really enrich the academic programs, the campus community, and the school's image. But in the early 2000s I saw how much time Henry had to spend on fund-raising, and how in spite of the MA program's growth and the creation of the BA, that no new faculty positions were created. So really maybe the surprise is that Henry waited this long.

I would hate to see that program disappear; all the things they do are so valuable in general, and I personally gained a lot from some of the programs they were running when I was there. But I wonder what it will take for MIT to stop treating the humanities as not even second rate? I know many people want to work there; they have a good reputation, good students, good location, etc.. But in fact this is at least the third member of the humanities faculty I know who has chosen to leave in the last four years, and likely there have been others. Maybe this will be a wake-up call at last, but I doubt it.

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