A Biochemist Weighs in on the Closing of Humanities Departments at SUNY Albany

Gregory A. Petsko is the Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry & Chemistry at Brandeis University. In his column in Genome Biology (also published at Inside Higher Ed), he wrote an open letter to George Philip, the President of SUNY Albany, who evicerated the language department at his university.  Priceless:

It seems to me that the way you went about [announcing the closure of the departments in a Friday afternoon meeting] couldn’t have been more likely to alienate just about everybody on campus. In your position, I would have done everything possible to avoid that. I wouldn’t want to end up in the 9th Bolgia (ditch of stone) of the 8th Circle of the Inferno, where the great 14th century Italian poet Dante Alighieri put the sowers of discord. There, as they struggle in that pit for all eternity, a demon continually hacks their limbs apart, just as in life they divided others.

The Inferno is the first book of Dante’s Divine Comedy, one of the great works of the human imagination. There’s so much to learn from it about human weakness and folly. The faculty in your Italian department would be delighted to introduce you to its many wonders — if only you had an Italian department, which now, of course, you don’t.