Letter to the Editor: A response to the History department regarding the ’60s at 50′ symposium

We agree with our colleagues in History that the stakes are high regarding the effort to make sense of the consequences of the American 1960s. For that reason, we enthusiastically invite everyone to attend the upcoming events of the ’60s at 50’ symposium and join in on the debate and discussion.

As we note in our promotional materials for the symposium, the topic is of such central importance to American society and culture that no one discipline can possibly own it or even claim primary expertise on it. There is much substantive overlap in the intellectual work done in History, Sociology, Political Science, Law, and other related disciplines, and the study of the consequences of a period like the ’60s calls for contributions from scholars from many fields and with multidisciplinary skill sets.  Several of us in BPALC have done significant primary historical research in archives and published historical scholarship; one of us has a Ph.D. in History.

“The triumph of law and order governance, the systematic decimation of organized political protest, and the simultaneous embrace of ‘colorblind’ rhetoric and pursuit of deeply racist policies by both political parties,” as stated in the Letter to the Editor from the History department, are all issues addressed in many courses outside of History, including some of our own. One of us has been teaching a course on the 1960s for two decades, and several others teach courses that touch intimately on ’60s related topics.

With a multi-disciplinary, multi-college perspective, we believe BPALC is well-suited to select expert speakers on such a topic without the need to have our choices vetted by individual departments. Five of our six speakers hold Ph.D.s from prestigious institutions: one each in Sociology (Todd Gitlin), Economics (Glenn Loury), Political Science (Charles Kesler), English (Mark Bauerlein), and History (Mark Moyar, whose degree is from Cambridge, and whose massive history of the Vietnam War was peer-reviewed by academic historians and published by Oxford University Press). The sixth speaker, June Carbone, has a J.D. from Yale and teaches in the University of Minnesota Law School. These are not “ideologues,” but serious scholars.

Three of our speakers (Bauerlein, Moyar, and Kesler) are reasonably classified as on the right, though they are not a monolithic group. But our other three speakers occupy positions on the political left.

Our first speaker was Gitlin. He is a former president of Students for a Democratic Society and still today writes, thinks, and fiercely advocates as a man of the left. His activist CV on the left is arguably longer and more substantive than that of just about anyone on this campus.

Carbone has consistently argued that the disappearance of good-paying jobs combined with work insecurity and mass incarceration policies have destabilized American families. She is an advocate of universal access to contraception and health care, and her work is frequently invoked by progressive journalists (e.g., The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof) in pointed criticism of conservative marriage promotion policies.

Loury has witheringly criticized the American prison system for disproportionately incarcerating black people. He recently summarized his analysis of race relations in the following terms: “[T]oday’s problem [of persisting racial inequality] derives mainly from a race-tinged psychology of perception and valuation — a way of seeing black people — that at some level, withholds from them a presumption of an equal human worth. And so, a racial group’s stigmatized status in the social imagination… may come to be rationalized and socially reproduced as a result of its subordinate position in the economic order.”

We invite everyone in the University community to examine our speakers’ scholarly records and decide for themselves on their quality.  Their CVs and samples of their work can be consulted online, at the links provided on our page (http://bpalc.blogs.bucknell.edu/60s-at-50-bpalc-symposium-and-film-series/).

Regarding financial support for the series, it comes from where we indicate on the webpage of the symposium, i.e., entirely from University sources. The speakers themselves, in every case, agreed to honoraria well below what they could have commanded simply because they were interested in the format of our series.

We certainly wish to be collegial, and so we again urge everyone — faculty, students, staff, and local community members alike — to attend the open and widely publicized events, ask challenging questions, and present alternative explanations. This is what a University is for.


Richard Crago, Civil and Environmental Engineering

JiaJia Dong, Physics and Astronomy

Chris Ellis, Political Science

William R. Gruver, Accounting and Financial Management

Peter Mark Jansson, Electrical Engineering

Alexander Riley, Sociology/Anthropology

Alfred Kentigern Siewers, English

Jennifer Silva, Sociology/Anthropology

Janice Traflet, Accounting and Financial Management


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