The Past, Present, and Future of the American University: Putting the Perpetual and Worsening Crisis in Perspective

Solicited by the Society for US Intellectual History (S-USIH) Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Academic Freedom, OAH Graduate Student Committee, HES, and SHGAPE

Friday, March 31, 2023, 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: Education; Intellectual; Social and Cultural


This panel will offer a range of useful historical perspectives to allow for a better understanding of the perpetual, worsening crisis of the American university. It will spotlight a range of perspectives by featuring historians with expertise in American higher education, student debt, the state, the culture wars, race, and gender. This panel will also, significantly, offer diversity in terms of professional positioning. Half the panel consists of scholars who have not won the tenure-track lottery.

Session Participants

Chair: Andrew Hartman, Illinois State University
Andrew Hartman is a professor of history at Illinois State University. He is the author of Education and the Cold War: The Battle for the American School (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), and A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars (University of Chicago Press, 2015, second edition in 2019).Hartman is currently finishing his third monograph, Karl Marx in America, contracted to the University of Chicago Press, and he is co-editor of American Labyrinth: Intellectual History for Complicated Times (Cornell University Press, 2018). He is the winner of two Fulbright Awards, is an editorial advisor for the University of Chicago Press, an Organization of American Historians (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer, and the founding President of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH). Hartman has been published in the Washington Post, Baffler, Chronicle of Higher Education, Salon, Jacobin, Bookforum, and In These Times.

Panelist: Daniel Bessner, Duke University
Daniel Bessner is the Hanauer Honors Associate Professor of Western Civilization. He is the author of Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual (Cornell, 2018) and co-editor, with Nicolas Guilhot, of The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science, and Democracy in the Twentieth Century (Berghahn, 2019). In addition to numerous scholarly publications, his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, n+1, and other venues.

Panelist: Donald Earl Collins, Loyola University Maryland
Donald Collins has written for more than twenty years on topics such as multiculturalism, education reform and US/African American identity. His articles have appeared in Al Jazeera English, Salon, The Washington Post, NBC News THINK, The Atlantic, The Guardian, HuffPost, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Teachers College Record, Seven Scribes, Academe Magazine, and Radical Society. He is also the author of Fear of a “Black” America: Multiculturalism and the African American Experience (2004) and Boy @ The Window: A Memoir (2013). He is a Lecturer in History and American Studies at American University with a PhD in History from Carnegie Mellon University.

Panelist: Lauren Lassabe Shepherd, University of New Orleans
Lauren Lassabe is an Instructor of Higher Education at the University of New Orleans. She has also worked in student affairs, student conduct, and Title IX. She is broadly interested in the political and intellectual history of US higher education, especially in educational culture wars of the last half- century. Her current book manuscript, Resistance from the Right: Conservatives and the Campus Wars, is a history of backlash forces in the academy in the era of the New Left.

Panelist: Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Loyola University Chicago
Elizabeth Tandy Shermer (Ph.D., University of California at Santa Barbara, 2009; B.A. University of Virginia, 2003) is an Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. She has held research fellowships across the US and around the world, including at Cambridge University, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, and the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Shermer’s most recent book is Indentured Students: How Government- Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in College Debt. She is also the author of Sunbelt Capitalism: Phoenix and the Transformation of American Politics (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), editor of Barry Goldwater and the Remaking of the American Political Landscape (University of Arizona Press,2013), and co-editor, with Nelson Lichtenstein, of The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). Her articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, American Historical Association Perspectives, Bloomberg News, Huffington Post, History News Network, and the Washington Post.

Panelist: David Weinfeld, Rowan University
David Weinfeld is a visiting assistant professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, where he also holds the Harry Lyons Chair in Judaic Studies. His book, An American Friendship: Horace Kallen, Alain Locke, and the Development of Cultural Pluralism, will be published by Cornell University Press in May 2022. He has published peer-reviewed articles in the Journal of American History, the American Jewish Archives Journal, and Southern Jewish History, and has a forthcoming piece in American Jewish History. In addition to VCU, David has taught at the University of Toronto, Queens College, Temple University, and New York University. He earned his PhD in History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies from NYU and his BA cum laude in History from Harvard University. From 2017-2020 he wrote a monthly column for the Canadian Jewish News. David was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.