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Press Releases | General Education

Statement on UPenn’s Removal of Shakespeare from the English Department—Literally and Figuratively

December 14, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC—In response to the student-led and faculty-supported removal of William Shakespeare’s portrait from the English Department’s building, Dr. Michael B. Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, released the following statement:

“What might be seen as a foolish adolescent act unfortunately reflects a deeper intellectual breakdown led by the professoriate itself. Penn’s English faculty long ago dropped the requirement for all majors to take a course devoted to the works of Shakespeare, so no wonder their students devalue the rich and challenging world of the English-speaking world’s greatest author.”

Faculty, administrators, and trustees who care about academic quality must recognize that neglecting the most consequential writer in the English language will erode confidence in the humanities, not to mention funding. Regardless of the portrait’s fate, Penn faculty would serve their students better by restoring Shakespeare and other core texts to their proper place as requirements.”

ACTA’s report, The Unkindest Cut: Shakespeare in Exile 2015, found that only four of the nation’s top 52 national universities and liberal arts colleges, as identified by U.S. News & World Report, require English majors to take even a single course that focuses on Shakespeare.

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