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October 25, 2001


Ideas needed for Senate plenary session

To the University community:

University Senate President James H. Cassing has asked me to chair an ad hoc committee to arrange a plenary session of the University Senate in March 2002. Plenary sessions are open to faculty, staff, students and administrative officers. At plenary sessions we discuss matters concerning the whole University, its policies, its plans and its expectations. The plenary session is the town meeting for the whole academic community.

By this notice, I am asking (1) for faculty volunteers to serve on this committee to plan the session, and (2) I am asking for suggestions of interesting, provocative, necessary topics.

Professor Lewis Jacobson (biological sciences) suggests that we follow up the statement by our new chair of the Board of Trustees. Chairman William Dietrich said he "opposes corporatization of college and universities." He feels that trustees look upon the University as "more like a business" and therefore do not appreciate the "richness of its intellectual and cultural contributions." How might we focus this question for a plenary session ? Whom might we invite to speak?

Nathan Hershey has suggested that we all should read Morris Berman's "The Twilight of American Culture." One shouldn't judge a book by its title, but this title raises hackles with me. Since when have we Americans been able to seize a culture and make it just ours? After Sept. 11, the phrase is even more worrisome. I have been reading Berman; it is an update and popular revision of Oswald Spengler's 1922 "Decline and Fall of the West." Those who have read Nietzsche will also recognize the argument. Berman writes with conviction and clarity; he has new and persuasive data. He has read Don DeLillo's "White Noise" and other books on the present state of the nation. Berman's book is published by Norton, the last American publisher not owned by an international conglomerate. Might we suggest that the whole campus read this book and then participate in a public forum on its issues?

Persons interested in serving should write to Richard Tobias, English, 526 CL, or send an e-mail to I need bodies and ideas.

Richard Tobias


Department of English



Ad Hoc Committee for the March 20 Plenary Session

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