History Department Statement - February 2017
The history department values free inquiry, free speech, and diversity of both experience and perspective. We view these as fundamental to the liberal arts mission and necessary to the maintenance of a strong civic culture. At the same time, we are committed to certain core principles without which we cannot function either as educators or scholars.
Among these core principles is a respect for truth and facts. As historians, we are, of course, alert to the ways in which power and knowledge overlap and intersect. Questions of objectivity and subjectivity have always been central to our profession and craft, and there will never be a time when the writing of the past is not contested to some extent. There is, however, an important difference between informed debate on the basis of vetted and broadly accepted facts and defiant, dishonest speech that aims at rhetorical and political control.
“Post-factual” culture and contempt for truth are nothing new. Universities exist, in part, to manage and combat those impulses. To do so, we must commit ourselves to the methods of inquiry and habits of mind which are necessary to bring facts within our reach, where they may be freely interpreted and interrogated for potential meanings. This is and always will be the core mission of our discipline and department.
The rich contributions of immigrants to this country and university, both in the past and present, are a matter of fact. On that basis, we wish to state and affirm our support for the principle of free movement and for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers
, regardless of their country of origin or religious faith.