Letter to the editor: talking about the humanities at Stanford?

May 3, 2018, 3:04 a.m.

As a hard-core humanist on the Stanford faculty, I read The Stanford Daily’s report (May 1) about the tech panel, on what that panel referred to as a campus “divide” between the humanities and the technological skill building sectors of the university, with curiosity that quickly turned into dismay. The perpetuation of (minimally speaking) the distorting and (maximally speaking) insulting language of fuzzy versus techie, as per title of the article, topic of the panel and title of panelist Scott Hartley’s book is only one aspect of this dismay. But it is simply difficult to comprehend how a panel on the uneven financial rewards for spending the undergraduate years in technological training (techie) versus devoting time to, say, learning languages or studying humanity’s great literary and artistic treasures and curating them, would not include one humanist in the conversation. A venture capitalist, a former CEO and an entrepreneur who even bemoans her condescending attitude towards the humanities while having been a student at Stanford?! Imagine a panel discussion on the gender divide between (cis) men and (cis) women that included only (cis) men talking about that divide, saying that it was just too unfortunate that as students they regarded (cis) women with condescension, but luckily now “we” need and use some of them to start rethinking the divide. Of course, maybe putting a strange creature like a humanist on that panel might have raised all kinds of complicated questions. Anyhow, thankfully the article cites two M.S. students who voice surprise at such a set-up. Shout-out to them: Diego Hernandez ’17 and Amy Liu ‘18 and Anat Peled (the reporter) who cites the students’ surprise (my dismay) in her article. That constitutes Stanford’s hope for integrating serious learning in the various sectors of the campus.

— Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert

Faculty, department of religious studies

Director (returning), Taube Center for Jewish Studies

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