MAA News – President’s Column

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Now that we are a week into our Centennial Year, I’d like to share a few of my ideas that I hope to work on during my term as president.

But first, a huge thanks to Tom Burman, C.J. Jones, Margaret Meserve and all the members of the 2024 Annual Meeting Program Committee for organizing what I am sure all attendees agree was a wonderful meeting at Notre Dame! The sessions were high quality, the preparations were impeccable, and the hospitality was warm and gracious. A great deal of work went into giving us such pleasant and productive days and evenings; we are all extremely grateful. Thanks, too, to my predecessor Robin Fleming, for, together with Sam Leggett, delivering a brilliant and exciting Presidential Address, and for guiding the MAA with wisdom and great good sense throughout the past year.

As I start my year as president, the ongoing devaluation of the humanities and a widespread sense of crisis in higher education (to cite just one concern, recent studies suggest that up to 70-80% of all college and university faculty are now contingent, or non-tenure track) are very much on my mind. I believe that the MAA must do what we can to support scholars and teachers of all kinds and at all levels, if we are to fulfill our mission to “promote scholarship in medieval studies and awareness among the public of medieval cultures” and, indeed, ensure that there is a future for medieval studies.

An important step, which has been forcefully recommended by members in a letter addressed to the officers and was further discussed at the Business Meeting at Notre Dame, is to safeguard the future of Speculum. To that end, at our July Council meeting I shall ask the Councillors to vote to make the funding of a fully paid endowed editorship an explicit fundraising target, as soon as current Matching Campaign, whose goals have already been enumerated, ends in late 2024.

Another important priority will be to continue and expand our programs designed to help scholars and teachers travel to archives, libraries, landscapes, and monuments. I would also like to work with CARA to establish consortia that allow scholars and teachers who cannot travel access the research and teaching resources they need from their homes.

A third initiative will be to draw on the expertise of members to organize low-cost (or even free?) remote summer courses and workshops designed to help graduate students and early career scholars obtain or improve skills that are central to medieval scholarship, but which are increasingly being dropped from university curricula. Such skills might include (but are not limited to) languages, paleography, diplomatics, codicology, digital humanities, etc. Kay Reyerson, President of the MAA Fellows, has suggested that the Fellows might help recruit instructors and organize such courses.

Such programs should, I hope, benefit all or most of our members, but I will particularly bear in mind the pressing needs of graduate students, early career scholars, and contingent and independent faculty.

So: we have a lot of work to do! I welcome the help and suggestions of all our members, as we do what we can to keep medieval studies healthy and strong.

Sara Lipton

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