27 ene. 2011

Cordon Sanitaire

We isolate our undergraduates from our research: this is the mentality that puts research and teaching in opposition to each other. Our research is "esoteric" and presumably of interest only to graduate students and colleagues. Except that it's not. I love getting ideas in the classroom for my research and teaching ideas from my research in the classroom. I'm incapable of erecting a cordon sanitaire between the two main aspects of my job.

Today, for example, I have had to tell two students from last semester to be inconspicuous if they come to my talk in the Humanities Center, since technically undergrads are not welcome there. In my view, the advantage of studying at a research university, even as an undergraduate, is having intellectually engaged professors. God forbid a student should see me in action discussing ideas with my colleagues. The student might actually see that my research is half-way interesting. Or not. But at least that judgment becomes possible.