[APPLAUSE] SUSAN MURPHY: Welcome, everyone. I am delighted to be here. I'm Susan Murphy, vice president for Student and Academic Services. But today, I'm a proud member of the class of '73, as I always am.
And it's in that role that I have the distinct honor to serve as the moderator for our panel today. I think, given who our panelists are, we could have given any topic to them, and we would have had all of you assemble because these are indeed beloved members of our faculty.
But each of them is especially qualified to talk about the topic that we did suggest they might at least touch upon in their comments, that being the evolution of teaching from the 1960s to the future. And the reason that they are particularly qualified is each, in his or her own right, is a Stephen Weiss Presidential Fellow, which is the highest honor this University gives to our faculty, made especially important, I think, to the faculty members because that honor comes from nominations of students for their work as teachers.
So with that, let me introduce our panel. First, I want to welcome to the group Walt LaFeber, the Andrew and James Tisch Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, a longtime member of the history department.
And on my good days, I admit that I was an advisee of his. But you can't ask any questions related to that.
Secondly, I'm thrilled to welcome Professor Richard Polenberg, Dick Polenberg, also a longtime, beloved member of the history faculty.
And those of us who live in Ithaca have the good fortune of seeing another side of Dick because he's quite the aficionado of American jazz. So it's been great to watch him.
And then someone who will admit to not being a part of our era because she's way too young, she says, but we consider her a member of the group, Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Professor Emerita from human development and also with gender studies. So Professor Brumberg.
You have a brief bio in the program. And we chose to do that so that we could maximize the time and my not having to go through all of their distinguished accomplishments because if I were to read to you the books for which they are well known, the honors which they have received nationally and internationally, their contribution to scholarship in their disciplines, that would take a half an hour. And that is not the intent of our session.
What we do hope for the audience that's here-- and this is being live streamed. So if any of your friends missed today's presentation, it will ultimately get posted on Cornell Cast. Or if you missed a salient point, as we might have in our lectures during our undergraduate days, now you can go back and listen to that lecture and not have to rely on those terrible notes that we took. That will be on Cornell Cast. And I invite you to share that good news.
Certainly since the class of 1973 was here, and many of us spent many hours in this very hall, not quite so comfortable back then, listening to certainly Dick and to Walt, a lot has changed. It's changed in terms of the demographics of our student population. It's changed in terms of the use of technology on the campus. The world environment has changed.
I often think about if I were teaching history and now all of a sudden there's 40 more years of history to cover, what would they choose? Because we barely made it to World War II when I took history in high school. So now all of a sudden we're into the 21st century. So these are just some of the things that have changed.
What we're going to do is ask each of them, starting first with Professor LaFeber then moving directly to Professor Polenberg, and concluding with Professor Brumberg, to share about 8 to 10 minutes of their own reflections. They'll come to the podium to do that. And then we'll all be as part of a panel. And it will be an opportunity for a conversation with all of you. So with that, let's begin. Professor LaFeber.
WALTER LAFEBER: Thank you, Susan. It's a pleasure to be here this morning, back in Bailey Hall where the birds used to fly around when I lectured, I remember very vividly, and to be on a panel with two distinguished colleagues, distinguished, as Susan said, by their teaching as well as by their highly influential scholarship. What I want to do very briefly obviously is to talk about the relationship of the class of 1973 to some of the problems we have in 2013.
As you understand that could be taken several different ways. The reason I want to do this is because it seems to me that many of the root causes of some of the problems we have today we can trace back to the period around 1969 to 1973, thereabouts. And we could look at the class of 1973 as a way of understanding some of these problems.
I was looking at the Cornell Sun when many of you arrived in August of 1969. And it was interesting to note that the whole front page of the Cornell Sun at that time was about the previous crisis at Cornell in April, the Occupation of the Straight, which indeed made national and international headlines.
There was nothing national, though, on the front page of the Sun. There was on the editorial page a letter, in which it said that the first letter you folks would write back home after you had arrived at Cornell would be, Dear Mom, I have just been involved in my first picketing, sit-in, or building occupation, or perhaps all three, knowing some of the people who are here today.
Four years after that, the last issue of the Cornell Sun just before your graduation was very different. There was nothing about Cornell in that Cornell Sun paper. The only thing that was on the front page was a picture of Sam Ervin and Howard Baker, the two co-chairs of the select committee to look into the Watergate burglary of 1972.
And what that story announced was that the select committee had just begun to hear the testimony of Ehrlichman and Haldeman, the two top aides of President Nixon. It was clear from the testimony given in the Sun that they both were on their way to jail, as indeed they were along with 48 other people from the Nixon administration.
The day before in the Sun, there had been a picture of Woodward and Bernstein, the two famous Washington Post journalists who had tracked down much of this information. And what the caption of the Sun underneath that photo said was that Woodward and Bernstein had just received a "heartfelt apology," quote, unquote, from the White House for the things that the White House had called them the previous several months.
In other words, much of what they had found was now found to be true. Ehrlichman and Haldeman were about to testify. And as a result, one of the great changes in late 20th century American history was about to happen. And that is we were moving from an imperial president to a fragmented president.
And indeed, that summer after your graduation, there was a book published by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called The Imperial President. And Schlesinger in that book traced how the imperial presidency had developed. It was the beginning of a trend that would, in a sense, climax in the 1990s when President Clinton was asked whether he was relevant any longer to American politics and to last April 30 when President Obama was asked the same question. Are you relevant? Are you still here in terms of American politics?
And Obama's famous response to this was the takeoff on Mark Twain, which is, the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. But Obama was asked this two more times in May. And I think the revelation of the last couple of days have not changed. We have come a long, long way from the summer of 1973 to the questions being asked of the president in the 1990s and the last two months of 2013.
The fragmented presidency is then something that has its roots during the years you were at Cornell. And we are now living through the consequences of that with President Clinton, President Bush, and President Obama.
There is a second theme that I think comes out of this. And that is the theme of the fragmentation of international power as well as the presidency.
When you folks were born, most of you, in the early 1950s, the United States was one of two great powers in the world, along with the Soviet Union, of course. In 1953, the United States overthrew a government in Iran and put back in power the Shah of Iran who would be there for the next 25 years.
The next year, 1954, the United States overthrew the government of Guatemala and put in place an armed government, a military government, that would stay in power right down to the present in most of its manifestations. The Soviets, on their part, in 1956 would overthrow the Hungarian reform government and restore a very strong communist government in Hungary and also the same year in Czechoslovakia.
It was a bipolar, two-party world. And then things began to change. And one of the great announcements of that change occurred when you folks were sophomores and President Nixon gave a speech at Kansas City in which he said, the world is changing from a bipolar political world to a multipolar economic world and that economics is going to determine the future of world politics, he said in 1971.
And instead of thinking of two powers, Nixon said we must think in terms of five powers-- the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Japan-- Japan was to overtake the United States as the number one power in the world in the year 2000, it was prophesied-- and what he called Western Europe. In other words, the years of the '80s, '90s, down to 2013 in which economics have become increasingly important was essentially prophesied during your undergraduate years at Cornell. And again, we began to see them come true.
The climax of this was actually in the New York Times this past Monday when it was noted that although the United States went into Iraq in 2003, and many people in the United States hope that one payoff of that would be that the United States would have access to most of the Iraqi oil, that instead of the three million barrels of oil that Iraq is now producing every day, the Chinese are taking 1 and 1/2 million barrels of that oil.
It is the Chinese who have not been involved in the military commitment in Iraq who are now getting many of the economic payoffs. And Nixon essentially said this is the way it's going to be. There's going to be a multinational competition for this kind of economic prize and that the military is going to become less and less important.
Let me summarize what I've just said. In the first place, what we have seen in the world since your graduation particularly, but it's rooted in the years of your graduation, has been the increase of the membership of the United Nations from 51 in 1945 to 138 in 1973 to 193 now. The world has become so fragmented, so pluralistic, that essentially we are in a different world than we were in 1945 to the early 1970s.
This is a wholly different world. There's a new book out by Moisés Naim called The End of Power. He has been on television the last couple of weeks. And perhaps some of you have seen him.
The title, as I said, is The End of Power. That is, I think, not correct. And the text of his book makes it clear it isn't correct. Power has not ended. It has diffused. It has fragmented. And it began in the late '60s and early '70s.
He notes, for example, that one of the things that have happened is that there are 10 hedge funds in the last part of 2010 that had more earnings than the six largest world banks, that the money in the world is fragmenting, much like the politics and the military power is fragmenting. He also notes that the power is fragmenting, as he says, quote, "very slowly from men to women," which Joan will talk more about in a moment.
So what we've seen on the national level is this fragmentation of power in a number of different ways and of course climaxed by the ultimate fragmentation of power, and that is the appearance of international terrorism which has no state anchor at all-- simply individuals or groups unattached to particular national entities. This began in 1972, again when you folks were juniors at Cornell, with the killing of some of the members of the Israeli Olympic Team. And it has evolved now into what we know as the international terrorism in the '80s and the '90s.
The second point that I would note is that this had been paralleled by the fragmentation of the American presidency and the examples I gave of particularly President Clinton and President Obama. And the third point I'd like to make is that, again, what we're talking about here is not military power-- although that has been fragmented-- but the key role of economic power, which Nixon began to talk about in 1971 and which we've all lived through in various stages since that time.
It is the economic power that is really fragmented, as China becomes the number one threat to the United States' status as the world's greatest economic power, not Japan, but other powers as well, including some now even in Africa, who are beginning to pick up steam as they move towards economic development and begin to pluralize the world.
The 21st century has been called the beginnings of another American century. I don't believe it's going to be. The world is going to be too fragmented, too balanced.
There's going to be too many new upstarts. And it's not going to be along the lines of the military, political themes that we have talked about through the late 20th century. It's going to be along the lines of economic development, the economic changes, and the political responses, which will be very fragmented, all of which we begin to see, as I've tried to argue, and to learn about from the teachings of the experiences of the class of 1973. Thank you very much.
RICHARD POLENBERG: Well, good morning. When I came to Cornell in 1966, I had the opportunity to share a course with Walt LaFeber. We taught a survey course in American history together.
It was a pleasure listening to his lectures then. It was a pleasure listening to what he had to say now. Some things don't change fortunately.
Well, as I say, I joined the Cornell faculty in the fall of 1966. And when I was asked to speak about the evolution of teaching at Cornell from 1960s to the future and I had to do so for only 10 minutes, I was, I admit, somewhat worried.
But whenever I worry, I'm reminded of a story told about Harry Hopkins, who is, I'm sure you remember, headed relief efforts during the Franklin Roosevelt administration. It seems Hopkins told a story about a young girl about to go on her first date and asked her father what she might expect.
Well, Daughter, he said, that young man will want to hold hands with you. And, Daughter, that's all right. And then he'll want to put his arm around you. And, Daughter, that's all right. But then he'll want you to put your head on his shoulder. But don't do that, Daughter, or your mother will worry.
Well, the next day the man asked the daughter how things went. And she said, Father, it was just exactly as you said. First, he wanted to hold hands with me. And I said that was OK.
And then he wanted to put his arm around me. And that was all right. Then he wanted me to put my head on his shoulder, but I said, hell, no. You put your head on my shoulder and let your mother worry.
So I decided I would stop worrying and just say a little bit about the changes in students and in my own teaching during the years that I've been here. I arrived at Cornell in the summer of 1966 and decided to go to Olin Library to do research. It was July. It was a warm day. But I put on a dress shirt and a tie.
That fall when I began teaching, I always wore a tie and jacket, as did virtually all of my colleagues. There was then a distinct air of formality about Cornell in 1966.
The secretaries in the department called me Professor or Mister, and I called them by their last names. Students were exceedingly polite and respectful. All of them were highly deferential.
After my first lecture, they applauded. And I had to say that it would be fine to do that on the last day of class, but please not after each class during the semester. Many of my colleagues in the history department were elderly, highly distinguished scholars. Some had been teaching at Cornell long before I was born.
Fredrick Marchem, the chair, was born in 1898. He'd fought in the British army during World War I. He came here as a graduate student in 1923 and joined the department in 1926.
Paul Gates, a great historian of American agriculture, had joined the department in 1936 after studying at Harvard under a professor who had been a student of Frederick Jackson Turner's. Another colleague, Knight Biggerstaff, the great, famous Chinese historian, had once taught my own doctoral advisor at Columbia when my advisor had been an undergraduate at Cornell in the days just before World War II.
Well, in those days, back in 1966 and thereabouts, faculty members entertained each other at formal evening dinner parties. People dressed up for the occasion. Husbands and wives sat together at the dinner table. But afterwards, they usually separated-- the men in one room talking about the University or public affairs, and the women in another room talking about-- you know, I never did figure out what they talked about.
Wives, however well-educated, however intelligent, were never supposed to challenge, much less contradict, a male professor, no matter how foolish or ill-informed he might have been. A younger faculty wife who once had the temerity to challenge a statement by a professor received a blistering phone call the next day from an older faculty wife who reprimanded her for her impudence.
All the faculty members in the history department were men. And all the men were white men. And it remained that way for several years after I arrived. The department was no longer entirely Protestant. But the first Catholic and the first Jew had been recruited less than 10 years before I arrived.
I'm not sure whether all traces of anti-Catholicism had vanished from Cornell, but all traces of anti-Semitism certainly hadn't. As for hiring a woman, I remember several colleagues saying, before the meeting at which we finally did decide to hire a woman-- Professor Mary Beth Norton-- that despite her qualifications, they simply couldn't vote for her. Fortunately they were in the minority.
I taught lecture courses and seminars on 20th century American history. My class met on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Like all of my colleagues, I piled on the reading, assigning anywhere from 10 to 15 paperback books.
Each semester, students took in-class examinations. Grading was strict. There were always a significant number of C's and C-minuses. There were A's but not very many. Never more than 10% or 15% of the students received that grade.
Students were intensely concerned with national and international affairs. How, in 1966, couldn't they be? By the fall of 1966, the Civil Rights Movement had recently won major victories. Black Power was emerging as an important movement nationally and of course on the campus.
The Vietnam War was raging. The bombing of Vietnam was intensifying. And anti-war demonstrations were taking place. And although SDS and other radical organizations were small, the student movement on campus was certainly underway.
Some students, a small number, may have been worried about being drafted. But they weren't in the least concerned about their futures. They weren't concerned about getting into graduate or professional school. Usually students would apply to only three graduate schools when they were leaving Cornell.
And they certainly weren't worried about getting a good job. They were confident they'd be able to get the kind of jobs they wanted. And the fact is that they usually did.
So now let me move forward, fast forward nearly half a century to Cornell today, or at least to the Cornell at which I taught until last year when I retired. Unlike students in the '60s, Cornell students nowadays are exceedingly worried about their futures. Many of them start out deeply in debt, having to pay off student loans because of the huge tuition increases.
In 1966 and '67, the year that I arrived on the campus, shortly before you folks arrived, Cornell tuition was roughly 26% to 28% of median family income, the median family income in the United States. Today, Cornell tuition for a non-New-York-state resident is-- tuition, fees, living expenses, rent, books, all of that-- Cornell expenses for non-New-York-state resident each year is $61,600-- $10,000 more than the median family income in the United States.
Even for New York state residents, the total comes to $45,500 a year, as I'm sure some of you know, since your children may very well be students at Cornell. And throughout the country, all students throughout the United States now graduate with an average debt of more than $25,000.
Outstanding student debt in the United States totals $1 billion, more than what Americans owe on their credit cards. It's not uncommon now for graduating seniors to apply not to 3 but to 20 or more law or professional schools, so anxious are they about their future prospects.
They remain interested, at least most of them remain interested, in national and international affairs. But only, they keep those affairs at arm's length. There are causes. There are issues. They regard them as important, but none important enough to demonstrate about, none important enough to march for, certainly none important enough to take time away from studying in order to get the high grades that now seem all important.
Students feel great pressure to obtain those high grades. In fact, so many have now been doing so well in many classes, half the students receive grades in the A range. No one ever receives less than a B-minus, in the humanities at any rate and maybe even in the social sciences, that Cornell recently decided to publish the median course grades on student transcripts.
The result was predictable. Students began avoiding difficult courses and enrolling in easier ones to make sure that their averages would remain high. Two years ago, the faculty voted to stop revealing median grades, hoping thereby to prevent students from enrolling in courses in which they believed they were going to get those grades. But you know, it doesn't work.
It's hard to imagine a sharper contrast with the outlook of students in the 1960s. It's very likely, I believe, that those high grades are being given to students who are required to do considerably less than students had to do in the past.
In my own case, I was probably typical in assigning fewer books by far in the last years that I taught than I did in the early years. And as for that vestige of a bygone era, Saturday classes, it's really difficult nowadays to get students to take classes on Friday--
--and classes that meet before 10 o'clock in the morning. There are lots of empty seats in those classrooms. But there is some good news, as well.
One of the most profound and beneficial changes in the University is that students are now being taught by a considerably more diverse faculty than they were in the 1960s, or for that matter even when you were students here. The history department now has nearly as many women as it does men on the faculty. And the variety of races, religions, and nationalities could hardly be more unlike the uniformity that prevailed when I joined the faculty in 1966.
Moreover, gay faculty members no longer need to go into hiding as was once usually the case. And what's true of history I think is true of other departments in the University. What about those old-fashioned, formal dinner parties? You know, it's been a long time since I've been invited to one.
And I hope that's because they're not happening any longer--
--rather than just because I'm not being invited. I don't know. But the notion that when faculty members get together, they would segregate themselves by gender, as they once did, now seems not only quaint but of course positively antiquated, so does the outmoded, indeed obsolete, idea that male faculty members can get away with saying anything without being challenged.
With mandatory retirement no longer enforced, more elderly professors now continue to teach than when I arrived. On the whole, I think that's been a good thing, both for the professors and their students.
But there have also been cases in which professors who are no longer competent continue to teach to the detriment of themselves and their students-- not many cases but a few. And we always hear stories about what happens when that occurs.
Well, yes, many things have changed-- changed a lot since the 1960s. And mostly I think those changes have been for the better. So maybe, as that young girl who was about to go on her first date said, it's time to let somebody else do the worrying. Thank you.
JOAN BRUMBERG: Let me begin by framing my teaching experience at Cornell. I am older, first of all, than your class but not as venerated as--
--either of my colleagues. I graduated from the University of Rochester in 1965, OK? I began teaching at Cornell in 1979 after getting my PhD in American social and intellectual history at the University of Virginia.
I am proud to say that I was an affirmative-action hire with a joint appointment in women's studies, that's now feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. You can figure out where the commas go. That's still a debate.
And that was in the arts college. And I was also in the Department of Human Development in the College of Human Ecology, which of course had adopted that name in 1968 from being the College of Home Economics.
In this niche, I developed a number of cross-listed courses that became popular with undergraduate women. One of them, the History of Women in the Profession, sometimes had as many as 200 students. And I also taught the History of Female Adolescence.
Not surprisingly, in these two courses most of my students-- and this is true for me over the years at Cornell-- I have had probably 95% female students in the years that I've been teaching. I'm still teaching talented high school kids in our summer college. That's much more integrated.
But my interactions with undergraduate women over the years since 1975 have been wide. And they have been deep. And I say deep because being a woman faculty member does impact the kind of expectations that students have about you, particularly as an advisor or as the director of women's studies, which I was from 1983 to 1985.
And today I maintain personal relationships with about 35 students whose emails keep filling my inbox. And these are not just for recommendations to get into graduate school. So the question that I was assigned was, what's changed since I started teaching, particularly with regard to women students? And I want to begin first with positive things, like my colleague Dick Polenberg.
And I can only offer kind of a cheap summary of something that's really become my research. Women students today are increasingly articulate about their own life goals. They plan and they worry about their achievement and the best-path graduate school and careers, which is something they all say they want and they need.
Nationwide, we should also note that there are more female undergraduates than male undergraduates now in 2013. I see very little of that old characteristic of my generation-- waiting to see what the boyfriend will do, although I've encountered some very stressed young people trying to plan in tandem for admission to professional schools, particularly law, medicine, and business.
Right now, Sheryl Sandberg's bestselling Lean In, Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is a very apt, prescriptive piece for a generation that has far greater access to the boardrooms than any other generation of American women. In 1979, when I started teaching my Professions course at Cornell, both colleges were almost entirely male terrain.
I'm still friends with the one female engineering student who was in my class that first year. And I didn't meet anybody like her until probably 10 or 15 years later.
Today, the vet school is slightly more than 77% female. And in engineering, women have constituted over 40% of the class in the last two or three years.
Almost all of my students believe that women should get equal pay for equal work. And they support marriage equality. But not all will identify as feminists. And that's a whole other story, which I'm not going to take on right now. But I think that's important.
Where did this new energy and outlook come from? I think, in part, from your generation. Surely mothers and fathers with different attitudes towards what constitutes female success have had something to do with this change.
The women's movement and what I'll call the social practice of feminism, even if you don't want to use the word, has made us a very different society than 40 years ago. Dick's stories of the dinner parties captures that.
And there are economic realities, namely the cost of higher education and the fact that more and more women, even if they are married, will need an income to advance or hold on to middle-class status. Today's female students began their educations on the proverbial level playing field as beneficiaries of Title IX-- they're called, informally, the Title IX babies-- the 1973 act which mandated equality in sports programs.
I love this particular piece of information. In 1973, when you graduated from Cornell, 1 in 27 high school girls had played intramural sports. Today it's one in 3.
This fact alone suggests that we're dealing with very different physical beings in today's young women from those who sat here in Bailey Hall in the early 1970s. And in women's studies, I've had female rugby and lacrosse players who are absolutely remarkable for their strength, their speed, their agility, and their fierce competitiveness.
Overall as a teacher, today's women students are great fun for me in the classroom. In coed classes, they don't appear to defer to males. And they seem to be competitive without feeling any guilt or lack of femininity. They're frank about so many things that used to be unspoken-- sexuality, race, social class, psychological problems-- probably because the popular culture in which they've grown up is so in-your-face, open, and even salacious.
And those of you who have teenagers know, of course, that the amount of disclosure on Facebook on the part of young women has become something of an issue and a concern. So this brings me now to the negatives, some of which I've written about in books.
First, the unrelenting rise in college tuition costs along with ideas about equal access and opportunity for women-- these are paired-- mean that more and more smart, creative, female undergraduates do not want to enter teaching, once the stronghold of middle-class American women. The general decline of all the feminized service professions-- nursing and social work along with teaching-- has had a profound effect on our society and I say sadly on the quality of teachers that we often encounter in public schools.
And Cornell has its own history in terms of backing off from the feminized service professions. While I've been here, we've ended the social work program. It is very hard to get certified at Cornell in a wide variety of subject area fields.
Cornell students today are insulted if I suggest to somebody who's having trouble with premed, have you thought about nursing? That's an insult. Even if they've accepted the fact that they can't survive the premed requirements, they still love the idea of medicine, curing, caring. And that might even be a smart and strategic career move to become a nurse practitioner or a nurse educator and get a PhD and teach nursing.
Somebody said to me, how can you suggest to me that I become a nurse? You're the director of women's studies. Aren't you a feminist? OK.
My experience with those who pursue teaching is that they often see this as a temporary employment, which it has been historically for American women who would teach only in the years before marriage and then for a long time had to give up their jobs when they married. And then there are some who want to teach because they feel charged up, because teaching, they can put their politics and pedagogy together in the cause of social change.
And some of these young people apply for Teach for America, which is highly competitive. And they're really using it as a stepping stone to get into another kind of professional school.
Many parents do not encourage their daughters to teach because of low salaries. I've had people kind of whisper in advising sections, I'd really like to teach. But my parents don't want me to.
And when a student is undecided these days and she has some politics, I think she's more likely to choose law school than anything else, with one exception-- maybe environmental science. There are a lot of young people now, women included, heading off basically to deal with the planet.
My second point, many contemporary female students come to college with Prozac in their backpack. All of the normal vicissitudes of female adolescence-- anxiety, depression, eating disorders, cutting-- seem to be on the rise, suggesting that the college years are actually pretty difficult.
Ever since the advent of collegiate health services in the early 20th century, Cornell has had an active psychological counseling program. But these days they're overworked. And students also rely very, very heavily on a day-to-day, even hour-to-hour basis on mom and dad because of the connectivity created by mobile phones. OK, when I was in school, you called home on Sunday night.
There was a line. And a long-distance phone call was significant-- not so now. In my last year of teaching, I felt that my role as an academic advisor was changing because of cell phones. Some students would ring their parents to check on my advice in my office as--
--I was signing their forms. Many were more discreet. They moved out into the hall in Martha Van. Whichever, helicopter parenting is not a fiction. And parents participate now in the college experience in all kinds of ways that they didn't before.
Counseling about courses and apartments and roommates is one thing. But editing papers for your children is another. And that's been an issue for me as a teacher in the past few years, particularly in summer college. I will admit it, and I will admit that I have friends here in Ithaca who edit their children's papers. And it drives me crazy.
They feel no responsibility to cut that supervisory cord and are very enmeshed in the productions, the things that are going to be handed in. Ironically, these same young women who are intensely parented seem to be on their own in the realm of sexuality.
Every college generation has its own sexual script, mine exceedingly different than my granddaughters' now in college. Hooking up, brief, uncommitted sexual encounters among individuals who are not romantic partners, has actually become the norm.
An estimated 60% to 80% of North American college students have had some hookup experience. In the 1960s, traditional models of courtship began to fade. And I think the easy availability of oral contraceptives separated sexuality from reproduction. Some of that, I think it's fair to say, probably began in our time, all right? We don't have to go into greater detail. But there were--
I know enough people who've told me, I went to the Gannett, and I complained about acne. And I got my birth control pills as a result. I mean very, very common medical scenario.
Today, films like 2011's-- I don't know if you've seen it-- No Strings Attached, you can get it on the-- Netflix, thank you. It stars Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. They model, in this film, the way to operationalize a hookup, which some people have argued is a good choice for a generation of young women who should not be precociously monogamous.
In other words, serious boyfriends and love relationships get in the way of career plans. There are people who see this as a plus. And then there are some sociobiologists who've argued that in evolutionary terms, hooking up is a natural, short-term mating strategy that incorporates the male desire for as many mates as possible.
I don't go along with that. As a feminist and also as a grandmother, I'm really not sure what to make of the hookup culture, except to urge caution in terms of the influence of alcohol and drugs and then who you choose to hang with on a Saturday night.
If you listen carefully to conversations in the dining hall or in coffee bars around town-- we have many more than when you were here as students-- you hear colloquialisms such as 'friends with benefits'-- that one you may know-- or 'fuck buddies' to describe this type of relationship. Unfortunately, however, hook-up scenarios do not always include friendship.
And some young women get hurt or exploited in the process, not to mention the incredibly high rate of STDs which have implications for fertility. And STDs are a major public health issue right now.
So, too, this new sexual script carries with it an upsetting fact reported by college women, including one of my granddaughters. That is that many male undergraduates have gotten their primary sex education from the internet.
Thus, for many, pornography has become the de facto sex educator. And that genre of learning poses all kinds of problems for young women as they try to explore heterosexuality in a healthy and protective way. By the way, I think Planned Parenthood does a sensational job with this problem.
Finally, I'd be remiss not to suggest that the current generation of students is far less homophobic than any generation in our history. Charmed by Ellen DeGeneres and others, lesbian relationships are not generally stigmatized in the larger peer group as they were when I was in college in the 1960s.
What this means is that social life in a university is far less standardized and more complex than it was in 1973. Cornell, like other diverse and high-powered research universities, has to take account of the way women's lives have changed profoundly in the second half of the 20th century.
Now, just this past week I did an informal poll of the students in my electronic address book. So I'm going to close with this. The n is not very big. Those of you who are social scientists are going to be very distressed by this.
But there were only about 20 students-- 25 that I wrote to. Four didn't answer me. I haven't controlled for anything very much--
--in terms of what kind of family and community they came from before they came to Cornell, which would be important. But I thought the data suggests some interesting things. 18 answered me, yeah.
Six went to law school and practiced law at some point. But most were not in private practice ever. One is a senior legal counsel to the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, another an assistant US attorney in the Northern District of Alabama and coordinator of the Northern Alabama Financial Crimes Task Force.
Two work for municipal agencies-- this is the lawyers. And two have left the legal field, one for an MFA at Columbia. She should have done that when she left Cornell. I could've called that one. But the other became an online dating and relationship expert in Washington, DC.
One's a general pediatrician who recently moved from suburban Long Island to a small town in southeastern Missouri which is underserved by doctors. And she supervises medical education there. This is an unusual route for a Jewish girl from New York-- southeastern Missouri.
One is a clinical psychologist in private practice-- not unusual coming out of human development. The other working now as a clinical director for Trumpet Behavioral Health, which is a national organization which provides evidence-based interventions and services to people with autism. She is one of the nation's leading autism experts.
One received an MSW, practiced as a social worker in and around Ithaca, got her MSW at Smith, I believe, and then became the owner of a popular Ithaca bar with attitude. Another taught in the US and Japan and then went to Silicon Valley as a project manager in the internet world to make more money.
Two are tenured full professors of history. And one is on the way, completing a PhD at MIT on the social history of textiles, the influence of the old College of Home Economics. One is an engineer with a successful track record in her field, diverted to become chief of operations for the Hospicare & Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County. One teaches public school in a major city.
Taken together, 12 are married to men. But only two couples have children. One has three children. One has an adopted daughter. The rest have none. Two were married to women and have no children. Three are not married. Three have been divorced. And of all the married, heterosexual couples without children, all of them mentioned their dogs.
SUSAN MURPHY: Well, now we turn to you. I'll admit that the beginning of this was like going down memory lane, having spent hours in Walt and Dick's class. And Joan and I have worked together at the University for a number of years. And she's just described my last 35 years of my career, including the dog. So this is wonderful.
So we have microphones in the aisles. I invite you to please stand. And this way, people who are doing the live streaming, if you have a question to direct to a single, particular faculty member, please do so. Otherwise, any or all will chime in. Yes, sir.
AUDIENCE: When I came here I actually expected to hear something about this topic. And I'm surprised I didn't-- massive open online courses.
SUSAN MURPHY: I don't believe that's what it was meant to be.
AUDIENCE: Well, it's talked about the evolution of teaching.
SUSAN MURPHY: OK.
AUDIENCE: And I'm surprised that that's not a consideration--
SUSAN MURPHY: Well, let's--
SUSAN MURPHY: Let's ask our panelists.
AUDIENCE: --a lot of things are going--
SUSAN MURPHY: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: --talking about that and how it's going to affect their futures.
SUSAN MURPHY: So our faculty at Cornell have just voted to join one of the consortia-- edX. And we also have faculty working with Google in the creation of a MOOC. I'm going to make a gross assumption that our three panelists have not been involved with MOOCs.
But if you'll just hang on one second, I'd be curious if any of you would care to reflect either the conversations you're hearing with your colleagues or how you think, from looking in the general media, what impact MOOCs may have on Cornell 40 years from now.
WALTER LAFEBER: Susan, what is a MOOC?
SUSAN MURPHY: Our massive open online courses. Joan.
JOAN BRUMBERG: I have had no experience with this. I feel that in some ways I'm a dinosaur now in the teaching that I'm doing. I'm just learning technologies like Blackboard, which were not part of my life when I began at Cornell.
However, the teaching assistants that I have in my summer college course, which is listed in science and technology studies, they are superbly gifted, from my perspective, already in the techniques for doing MOOC. I think it's the next-- the youngest generation coming in now-- people like us who do it, they're not really doing it. They've got an assistant who has learned the technology and is doing it.
But there's a way in which these younger people think in more visual and electronic ways about how to stimulate cognitive processes that really has never been part of my teaching. I would never want to do that because I don't want to lose personal touch, the ability to talk to my students.
But I think that's very different for younger people who are taking faculty lines now in the University. You should be talking to the young Cornell faculty about this.
SUSAN MURPHY: If we were going to take less of a historical perspective and more of a futurist perspective, to your point, I would have invited different colleagues because, to Joan's point, there has been a very active group of our faculty, they tend to be the more junior faculty, who are engaged in this, understanding that it's going to have an impact.
There's a great conversation in American higher education-- what will it do to the teaching institutions? How will it impact a research university? Will there still be a role for the residential university? So you're absolutely right to say, as we think now going forward, it's definitely going to have an impact. Nancy.
AUDIENCE: Professor Polenberg, you said that today's students still care about international and national issues. But they keep those at arms length. I worry about who's going to do the work of building a stronger civil society going forward.
RICHARD POLENBERG: Well, I guess that I'm worried about that, as well. The students are so concerned about jobs and about income and about their futures and about establishing themselves somehow in a profession or in an occupation. They're very narrowly focused. They're not really concerned with those broader issues.
It's a great contrast from the 1960s, when students just assumed that jobs would be available and things would be OK. Also, the issues of the 1960s, the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement, affected students in a way that the issues that exist now don't seem to affect them.
Sure, there are environmental concerns and other kinds of concerns. But the specificity of the war and opposition to the war, the issue of the Civil Rights Movement and the horrible things that were happening when people were protesting, those issues just don't seem to have the same resonance with students today.
JOAN BRUMBERG: I'm not contradicting what Dick is saying, Nancy. But I do think there's one thing going on now that's very interesting. There are more students who are traveling internationally as undergraduates than certainly when I was in school.
I mean, what I recall pretty much is that people went to France if they were French majors, you know, that kind of traveling abroad. And it was something that some of us couldn't afford to do.
Now, I find international travel as a part of the resume and experience of kids who-- even some of them who are lower middle-class. You know, they've been to Belize. Or they've been to Guatemala. So in that sense, I think they are a bit more international in their outlook.
SUSAN MURPHY: Alice.
AUDIENCE: Thank you so much. Integrating all of the conversations, when Professor LaFeber says it has changed so much, where history has brought us, I wonder, in a university as we have here, what do we continue to teach? Where does Western Civ, for instance, fit in?
What gets thrown out? What gets edited in? And how much you feel more interdisciplinary majors and cross-college courses will have impact in a classroom situation versus the MOOCs or M-O-O-- whatever we call them.
As a member of the class of '66, I want to thank you for dressing in ties. I did not dress for you. But also, the way we have done now bio and economics-- or is the lecture model needing to be changed in some way? Is it a different kind of a classroom on campus? How does the coursework change, the content, given what's happening?
SUSAN MURPHY: Walter, you want to start with that?
WALTER LAFEBER: I'll try to answer that, although I haven't been teaching for half a dozen years. It seems to me that it has changed. It has changed tremendously.
When I first came, as Dick has indicated, in the '60s-- I actually came in 1959, so I'm really antiquated-- the lecture was sort of at the center of the teaching. By the time I reached the 1990s and by the time I retired, a number of us were finding a great deal of satisfaction teaching seminars. And it was person-to-person dealings, more than the big lecture course.
As you mentioned Western Civ, the Western Civ course at Cornell used to be a very popular course because it was a very popular lecture course. Western Civ has dropped by the wayside for several reasons. And I think one of the major reasons of course, as we've all been talking about, is the pluralism that's moved in in the '60s and '70s when you folks were here.
But another reason, I think, for that is that it's very difficult to teach Western Civ in the way it used to be taught in a seminar. And as a consequence, it seems to me, that Western Civ lecture courses has sort of dropped, have become subordinated. And instead, there has been more and more person-to-person teaching.
The College Scholar Program at Cornell, which started actually-- I think it started when you folks were here-- to me, it really changed the way I thought about teaching. I spent more and more time with college scholars and honors students on a one-to-one basis in the '70s, '80s, and '90s than I ever did in the '60s and early '70s because of that change.
So to answer your question-- I'm not going to get into all the other questions you asked-- but it seems to me the major question you asked is, did we teach differently after the '70s and the '80s, the period that the three of us have been talking about. And I think we have. And I think it's more person to person.
That goes quite against the last question about MOOCs. This is very different. And I would have great difficulty-- I mean, I in fact turned down the opportunity to teach in MOOCs because I simply don't want to do it.
My greatest satisfaction in teaching has come from dealing with college scholars, teaching with people and teaching people in seminars. And even in the lecture course when I'd teach here in Bailey Hall, the satisfaction of the teaching to me was meeting the sections afterwards to deal with students one on one and find out what they were thinking about and usually what they didn't understand from my lectures.
That was the way we handled classes in the '60s and '70s. I don't think it was the best way of handling classes. And all of us have evolved now to the point where we, at least I, and I know several of my colleagues, like to teach in smaller classes. Now it seems, with the new technology, we're unraveling that and going back in another direction with a vengeance towards the MOOCs.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
SUSAN MURPHY: Yeah, I might just add a comment. It will be very interesting to see over a period of time whether, in the advent of MOOCs, whether any one of these three are the producers of the MOOC that gets sent out and then, as they say, the flipped classroom on the different campuses, the Walt LaFebers, Dick Polenbergs, Joan Blumbergs of the world are running the discussion section about some of the content that may have come in from everybody having watched a very inspirational lecture.
So I think those are the pieces we just don't know. But that point of personal satisfaction is a critical one. Sir.
AUDIENCE: Some commentators have suggested that tuition would be lower if professors did less research and more teaching. Could the panelists discuss what they see is the right balance between research and instruction and how that's evolved over the years?
SUSAN MURPHY: Who wants to start?
And I'm going to limit you to a few minutes because this could be a dissertation of itself. But, Dick, you want to start?
RICHARD POLENBERG: Well, it's a difficult kind of question to answer. The history department actually had expected people to do more teaching than most other departments in the arts college. That is to say we were expected to teach two courses a semester-- a lecture course and a seminar.
Not everybody did that. There are ways of getting out of it. But that was normally expected. And that may not seem like a whole lot. But that actually is more than what many faculty members do.
I think one of the saddest things that I've witnessed as a teacher and as a professor at Cornell-- and not just at Cornell; it's happened across the country at large-- is that professors try to get out of doing as much teaching as they can. And there are all of these various things you can do, supposed responsibilities you can take on that give you what is called, as a euphemism or not, called course relief, as if one needs relief from teaching.
I mean, when I came to Cornell, the first year that I was here-- of course, I didn't know any better-- I taught three courses each semester. Nobody told me I wasn't supposed to.
So I did until I saw what was going on. One of them was a graduate seminar. And then there were two undergraduate courses. But one of the sorriest things that I've noticed is the tendency of professors to try to reduce and reduce and reduce the number of courses that they teach.
And I think that departments and the administration is somehow, to some degree, complicit in this. And I think that that's all wrong. I think people who are on the faculty ought to be teaching.
And certainly teaching a lecture course and a seminar each semester is not too much to do. But I think that probably the minority of people in the College of Arts and Sciences do even that much. It may not be true in history. I think that's the normal teaching load. But it may not be the case in other departments.
JOAN BRUMBERG: My understanding is now that in human ecology at tenure time, faculty are asked to produce a teaching dossier, which underscores and asks the question, what have you done as a teacher? And you can't finesse things quite as easily, the not teaching because I've got outside money and I'm buying my time. So I think that's one way that the University can work.
SUSAN MURPHY: Also, I think the question that you're asking may be answered differently if you're at a research university where the mission is around research. Or is at a predominantly teaching institution? Sir.
AUDIENCE: Yes. Professor Polenberg, you mentioned that between when you started teaching at Cornell and when you finished, your reading list went down considerably. Could you explain why that happened?
RICHARD POLENBERG: [CHUCKLES] Well, because students wouldn't read all of those books. When I look back on the reading list that I used originally and see all of those paperbacks, first of all, the books weren't all that expensive. There are a lot of paperback books that cost $0.95 or $1.50, $1.95.
By the time that I finished, paperbacks were very expensive. And you couldn't even assign that many books because it would just cost too much. But also, students wouldn't do that reading. And what is the point of assigning books when students aren't going to do it?
I mean, you get to the stage where students would wait to see what the prelims were going to be. And then they would read what they had to read in order to do the prelims. And I also began to think that it would be better for students to read fewer books but read them more carefully and think about them than just have a lot of books.
Also, a lot of books went out of print. It used to be a lot easier to assign a lot of books because they were available. You could assign original sources. There were lots of documentary collections and original sources, novels, books published from the progressive era, the 1920s or '30s. And they weren't all that expensive.
You just couldn't do it anymore because of the nature of publishing. So at the end when I was teaching American constitutional history, I would assign usually a text of some sort along with three other books in the class. And so there would be four books that students would have to read along with the cases that we were considering.
It was considerably less. I was actually surprised when I went back and looked at the reading list that I used in 1966. If I were to hand out a reading list like that in the last year that I taught, people would head for the doors. Students just wouldn't do it.
JOAN BRUMBERG: Just to point out, though, that some of those primary source materials are now available online.
RICHARD POLENBERG: Yes.
JOAN BRUMBERG: So the library is changing the way in which we order books and--
SUSAN MURPHY: You can access information. A couple of more questions. Yes, sir.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. Professor LaFeber gave us a convincing argument for fragmentation of American presidential power and, I suppose, American foreign policy power. But I think your own work would show that there's a couple of exceptions. One would be presidential powers on foreign policy and national security.
I would think since the '70s, or at least the early '80s, you'd say that Congress has completely abdicated. And the president today has almost untrammeled ability to move US forces around the world or listen to us with the National Security Agency.
But also, in the international sphere, the Soviet Union and the United States had a race in the period you're talking about, military and covert competition with every country in the world. But the competition ended, and the United States kept racing.
We now have a military that spans the globe, has situational dominance and primacy really everywhere. We still are the largest exporter of weapons to dictators and repressive regimes-- Uganda, Ethiopia, whatever, Central African Republic. So it seems that there's been some diffusion. But still it doesn't feel very fragmented if you look at the global reach of our armed forces and our covert services.
WALTER LAFEBER: I agree with that, except that I come to a different conclusion. And that is-- to try to deal with both parts of your question quickly-- it seems to me that the diffusion of American military power around the world leads to many lesser results or benefits for the United States than we had in the '50s and the '60s.
You can send troops anywhere. That doesn't mean that what you want to happen is going to happen. The examples are Iraq and Afghanistan, of course. But there are other examples, as well.
So this movement of America, there's no doubt we're the number one military power. And there's no doubt that we came out of the Cold War as the winner. When you then try to apply those winning benefits to international relations, the results have not been always happy in the last 20 years. And in fact, I think that the last 10 years they've been rather catastrophic in many respects.
So I would grant your point. I would admit your point. I don't doubt that at all. But it seems to me that the power itself that the United States is trying to effect, and I use the example, for example, of Iraqi oil, that that particular power is not achievable anymore and that when we talk about-- to sort of give an overview of this-- when we talk about the renewal of the American century, personally I don't think there ever was an American century.
I mean, I've written an essay and a book on the American century. And I said, essentially I don't know why this book is named The American Century--
--because there really wasn't one. But nevertheless, we were one of the two or three great powers. We're not going to go through another American century. I mean, there's been a lot of discussion of that in the last couple of years.
And it's quite clear the 21st century is going to be wholly different for the reason you mentioned, that you can have a great military power, but it's not going to produce the same benefits that it produced in the 1940s, 1950s, or even in the 1960s. The criteria for that power is going to change. And the benefits from that power are going to be much less.
SUSAN MURPHY: A couple more. John and then Jeff.
AUDIENCE: Well, first of all, I want to thank all three of you for your incredibly articulate and powerfully insightful presentations and responses to our questions. It's been very, very inspirational.
Now that I've said that--
--I am very troubled. And I'm troubled by a theme that I'm picking up on through the various comments, starting with Professor LaFeber talking about the transition from lectures to seminars. We increased our human interface and connectivity with MOOCs. And we're now heading in a very different or opposite direction.
Professor Brumberg, you were talking about friends with benefits. It really sounded more like benefits without friendships. And so we're losing this human connectivity to the point where I'm thinking the graduating class now, will they even come back for their 40th reunion? Will there be the social connectivity, the human connectedness? Or are we at the point where we have gone into a very different place that we experienced in the class of '73?
SUSAN MURPHY: Dick.
RICHARD POLENBERG: You know, I think there is less-- I found in the last years that I was teaching-- less of a connection with students than in the earlier years. It may have just been me or my age or whatever. But I think it's also the way the University is set up now.
Students used to come to speak to us during office hours. And when I would hold office hours in the late afternoon and Walt would, Michael Kammen would, other members of the faculty would-- we were all on the same floor in McGraw Hall-- there would be three, four, five, six, sometimes seven students lined up waiting to see us. And it would only take a few minutes to talk to each student. But students would come in, and we would get to see a lot of students.
Once the internet happened and once people began communicating with each other through email, then the number of students who came to see faculty members declined dramatically. When I walk through McGraw Hall, though I'm no longer holding office hours, I don't see students waiting outside professor's doors any longer.
There are very few students in the building at all, other than to go to class. They're not there. And sometimes those conversations with students would not only be about academic work, though they usually focused on that. But personal issues would come up, or just other kinds of things would come up that one would talk about.
And I think that there's less of that now, less of a connection between faculty and students so far as I can tell just observing things around campus. And I think that's a sad thing. I think that something's really been lost as a result of that.
One of the things that I must say, that I prize most about the years I've taught at Cornell, are the friendships that I've made with students who stay in touch with me after all of these years. I don't know why they do. But they do. And we stay in touch. And these people are doing all sorts of important things out there in the world.
But the reason that we're in touch is because we got to know each other when they were undergraduates. Whether that will be happening in the future or not, I can't say. But just visually, looking at what seems to be going on around the offices in McGraw Hall, I would say it's not going to be the same in the future.
SUSAN MURPHY: If I might, to just assuage your concern just a little bit, John-- and I don't mean this to contradict it-- but I would say I think the interaction is changing. Obviously the technology is changing.
But when I look at the engagement of our students with faculty who are now living in residence halls, which we never experienced-- we have 150 faculty involved on West Campus and about 70 on North Campus. So some of those connections are being made in structured, out-of-class opportunities. So I think there are opportunities that you don't necessarily have to use the office hour. I wish they did.
I take some comfort just watching the student interaction and looking at the fifth-year reunion. There will be probably close to 800 of the fifth-year reunion class here. So I don't think they've lost a connection to the institution.
I think it's very different. And it will not be anything we recognize. That, I'm convinced. But I'm not so sure it's all doom and gloom. But it'll change.
Just a couple more. We're way past our time. You've been very patient in line. We'll get to you in line. But if any of you needed to be someplace at 11:30, you're 15 minutes late. We'll go as long as you stay. Jeff.
AUDIENCE: Just quickly. Professor Polenberg, I think you meant to say $1 trillion in student debt, not $1 billion. $1 trillion's, like, a rounding on the thing. Second--
RICHARD POLENBERG: If you say so.
AUDIENCE: --as someone who took lecture courses with both Professors LaFeber and Polenberg and took a seminar with Professor LaFeber, they're both great experiences. And they're very different. And I always loved waiting for Cornell lecture courses.
And I was a history major and took lots of history lecture courses. We looked forward to them. We wanted to get there early. We wanted to get a good seat. And they weren't impersonal. Even both of you taught classes with 300 people in them, and they both felt personal. I mean, we went to William Seward's house right before we came here.
So I think I vote for, to the extent you have lecture courses and you have people that can deliver lectures. You know, I don't know if kids play games on their phones now. But you know, there's room for both ways of instruction. I mean, they were different, but very good-- each one different. Thank you.
SUSAN MURPHY: Sir.
AUDIENCE: Quick question for the panel. I noticed in the past-- I went to school in the 1990s here at Cornell. And I noticed that in the high school level, the teachers that I had at high school were Ivy League graduates. Today, you see teachers at the high school level, because of No Child Left Behind, having to teach a test. So you don't have critical thinking.
And the quality of teachers has gone down. It's almost like Cornell graduates look at teaching at the high school level as a detriment. How do you think that's going to impact Cornell, other universities of that caliber, and our nation as a whole? Because I find that critical thinking is very sorely lacking. And I'm very concerned about it.
SUSAN MURPHY: Joan, you were beginning to allude to that in your commentary. Do you want to expand on that just a bit perhaps?
JOAN BRUMBERG: This particular issue about what is our commitment to public education in the big research universities is something that has concerned me since I first came to Cornell. Because I resided, in part, in the Department of Human Development, I was aware of the fact that Cornell students had to go to Cortland State to get certified, if they were prepared, in early childhood education and wanted to be primary school teachers.
Because I also taught history-- I'm a historian-- I had students in my class who were students of Walt and Dick's. Some young women said, I want to be a history teacher. What do I do with that fact here at Cornell? Very, very hard.
I mean, you can get certified at Cornell in math education. And the science education master's is excellent. My daughter-in-law, who's a Cornell graduate, did that.
It is tough. I think we have backed off from our responsibility. I mean, if you're at Columbia-- because there is a teacher's college. If you're at Harvard, there's a teacher's college. But here at Cornell, we-- forgive me, I think that we really have not taken seriously those students who have a content area passion, whether it's history or French or literature.
What do they do with that? And I think it's having an impact on the public schools, plus all these other social factors I mentioned that tend to subdue enthusiasm for teaching because of salary, because of false status concerns, misunderstanding of feminized service professions, stuff like that.
AUDIENCE: I feel it's also hurting our society as well because you're raising an entire generation of students who cannot critically think. And I think that's going to put this country at a severe disadvantage going forward.
JOAN BRUMBERG: I--
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
JOAN BRUMBERG: --agree.
SUSAN MURPHY: We'll take two more questions. And then we're going to get kicked out of Bailey Hall. So yes, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: On the question about the reduced reading load, when I was a freshman, I took chemistry with Sienko and Plane and used their very fine textbook. And I had a conversation with a chemistry professor at Carnegie Mellon recently. And he told me that Sienko and Plane had to dummy down their book because incoming freshmen today couldn't handle it.
And I'm wondering, when you talk about the decreased reading load and everything, have we dummied-down the education at Cornell? Or has it just changed somehow?
SUSAN MURPHY: You taught us to be honest.
RICHARD POLENBERG: [LAUGHS] Well, gee, you know, less reading is being asked of students. Dumbed-down I think is too strong a term. The students that I taught at the end of my career at Cornell were very bright and capable. And they worked hard. They really worked hard because they wanted to do well.
It's just a different style of teaching, different kinds of assignments. But the students that I found at the end, as at the beginning, were quite intelligent young people. And they wanted good classes. And they wanted to be challenged. And they just felt overburdened by taking a lot of courses and having to do a lot of work.
But I wouldn't go so far as to use the phrase dumbed-down, I think that goes a little too far. These young people who are coming into Cornell, they're different than they were in the '60s. But they're still very bright and very capable. And given the right environment, the right teaching, and the right resources that they're asked to see and read, they can produce truly excellent and outstanding work.
SUSAN MURPHY: Yes, sir. Last question.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, quick statement and a quick question. I was a history major at Cornell. And I found it very challenging and also very frustrating during my time here. And I didn't do anything with history afterwards. But yet I think about being a history major at Cornell with very, very good feelings. And I want to really communicate that. And my other friends do, too, I'm sure.
I remember studying for a prelim or so with a veteran of Vietnam. And I've been working at the VA for a while. And I see all these younger guys running around. And a lot of them have various issues from their recent service.
More than-- recently, I think three commit suicide a day. It is higher than ever before. And I'm just wondering if there's-- a question to anyone-- if anyone's had any experience in the viewing how veterans have handled, let's say, Cornell, obviously, over the years?
SUSAN MURPHY: Any perspective on the veteran experience per se?
WALTER LAFEBER: I haven't.
SUSAN MURPHY: Yeah. We certainly have had our share of veterans. When you look in more contemporary times, particularly post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan, at the undergraduate level, we actually have not seen the same volume that our peers, let's say, in the Washington, DC area or the New York area where the veteran population is rather considerable.
At the graduate level, we're beginning to see a bit of a cohort. From the work that I do with Gannett Health Center, I would say, at least in terms of a psychological perspective, they're not any more overrepresented in the population that we're serving.
If they come with physical limitations, some of that is just limited by our physical campus. So I don't think there's a difference of experience. But it's an important thing to keep in mind. Well, we have gone well past our hour. Let us thank Professors Brumberg and Polenberg and LaFeber.
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The world has changed a lot since the '60s, and so have Cornell students. They are more diverse, more dedicated, more apprehensive, maybe even more "salacious," according to a panel of history faculty who recounted some of their own teaching history to a Reunion audience in Bailey Hall on June 7, 2013.
The Class of 1973 Forum featured Richard Polenberg, the Marie Underhill Noll Professor Emeritus of History; Walter LaFeber, the Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University History Professor Emeritus; and Joan Jacobs Brumberg, professor emerita of history, human development and gender studies. All three are Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellows.