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Academic Exchange October/November 2000 Contents Page

In the field of public health, we tend to study one disease at a time. For example, it's very possible that we've missed the point in smoking prevention in young people. If young smokers have little hope for the future, getting them to stop smoking has no impact on the likelihood that they'll use other drugs, on teenage pregnancy, on school dropouts, on violence, and so on. Focusing on one disease, leaving untouched and unconsidered the fundamental, underlying, generic, real issue, is not a good way to proceed. But all of our research is funded one disease at a time, and our interventions tend to act on one disease at a time. This approach has a long history in public health, yet we are at risk of missing the fundamental, common denominators.

--S. Leonard Syme, emeritus professor of epidemiology, University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health, speaking in July as part of a panel on Promoting Health: Strategies from Social and Behavioral Research

National-level policy changes, starting in the mid-1980s, had the effect of decreasing support for higher education generally. The areas that continued
to receive funding were close to the technology/science core of funding. In response, universities developed entrepreneurial policies that brought them close to the techno-science economy. At the same time, under these policies, students abandoned the liberal arts for professional schools. The liberal arts became service courses for professional education. And interdisciplinarity in the liberal arts became a way of coping with a number of problems created by this shift toward professional study. The way interdisciplinarity solved a lot of problems with this shift was that institutions didn't have to deal with hiring and staffing problems in areas they no longer wanted to invest money into. Institutions did not want to prioritize or re-think what the liberal arts should look like, and the liberal arts also became an area where administrators were able to experiment with new hiring policies. It also was a way for institutions to hide controversial studies, avoiding public attack, for example, in women's studies and queer studies. Interdisciplinary studies also became in some sense profit centers, so that the university as a whole could leave the prestige structure of traditional departments intact.

--Sheila Slaughter, Center for the Study of Higher Education, University of Arizona, speaking last spring as part of Disciplines Unbound: An Inquiry into the Organization of Knowledge in the "New" University, sponsored by the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts

The Science and Religion Group invites faculty from across the university to participate in this year's informal lunch seminar, "Against Death: Scientific and Religious Perspectives on Prolonging Life." Each session will be open to any faculty interested in the topic under discussion. Topics include physician-assisted death, genetic technologies and the human genome project, and resource allocation to prevent death from premature births. Please contact Gary Laderman (gladerm@emory.edu, 727-4641) for more information.