A Message from the Dean: November 2022
As I was thinking about what to say in this piece, my mind naturally wandered in the direction of Thanksgiving. While I love the holiday and am grateful for the opportunity to reflect and give thanks for the many good things in my life, I am also very aware of its complicated history and of the conflicts between the “real” history of the holiday and the constructed memory that we’ve attached to it. The peaceful, multicultural repast so often presented to us belies a dark history of racial tension, conflict, and cultural genocide. Tables brimming with corn, beans, and squash, silently point to, without ever fully acknowledging, the indigenous peoples who saved and sustained the early Plymouth community and who introduced these now staples of the holiday into the European diet and virtually every fanciful image of the first Thanksgiving would leave anyone viewing them to believe that that the local New England native population paled in contrast to that of their white Pilgrim neighbors. Of course, this narrative is highly problematic, very biased and incomplete, and mostly wrong. Sadly, far too many accept it as the "truth."
This problematic narrative (and many, many others) stands as a stark reminder of the importance of the work that we do here in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters. Indeed, we all know that a broad and comprehensive liberal arts/humanities-based education is foundational for anyone hoping to understand and navigate the world in which we live. The world is not a simple place and anyone who hopes to succeed in today’s global economy absolutely needs to appreciate the importance of differing perspectives, how information is interpreted and used, how to examine and appreciate the complete picture, and they must be completely comfortable with operating in spaces where ambiguity and uncertainty are the only givens. I look forward to continuing this work in my final months as Dean and to continue to work with you all, as one of your classroom colleagues, to make this vitally important goal a reality for our students.
I wish you all a very restful and regenerative Thanksgiving! Thank you for all that you do and for being such committed and supportive colleagues. I am truly grateful to work with such a caring and inspiring community.
- Martin Hershock, Dean