Crisis in the Humanities Pt. IV: A history of history

Data from University at Albany Business Analytics


Fall 1966: As faculty numbers increased, the then-Social Studies department began to fracture. History was among the first departments to become independent.

The number of historians working at the institution grew from eight in the 1950s to 21 by the time of the split. At the dawn of the next decade, the faculty count was 32.

The Social Science building, home of the history program.
Tyler A. McNeil / Minerva Daily

But after the early 1970s, the department shrunk. Undergraduate enrollment plunged, resources faded, and its doctoral program received a critical review from the state, all reasons linked to History’s decline during the decade according to a 1983 departmental newsletter.

Enrollment in the last decade has continuously plummeted.  History department enrollment has consistently dropped each year, with 60 percent fewer students over the last decade.

How it Happened

During the Great Recession, UAlbany’s graduate numbers plummeted. To date, the university has since failed to meet graduate enrollment targets.

In other SUNY Centers, professional degree programs like medicine (Stony Brook University) and engineering (University at Buffalo) kept enrollment afloat while the humanities faltered.

Meanwhile, most graduate students at UAlbany were enrolled in the School of Education and College of Arts & Sciences. As humanities and teacher preparation programs began to drop, so did the overall masters and doctorate class.

“I think the question should be put ‘Okay, the landscape has changed, but what are you doing to move with that landscape?” said Kevin Williams, dean of Graduate Education.

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