November 4, 2020

Message from the Dean

To: Liberal Arts Faculty, Graduate Students, Post Docs, and Staff
From: Clarence Lang
Date: November 4, 2020 

Dear Colleagues: 

I will keep this message exceedingly brief. 

As you know, the results of our presidential election are still pending, and the matter likely will not be resolved soon while ballots are being counted and court challenges resolved. Many of us – if not most of us – likely are feeling uncertain about the difficult days ahead. Whatever the outcome of this national contest, we have considerable work to do as a Liberal Arts and Penn State community. Here, ethical judgment and decision-making, reasoned and honest debate, perspective-taking, attention to diverse human experiences, and care for others must matter as they impact both what we do and how we do it. Respect and community are two of our college’s most important values, and I ask that you lean into them as we carry on in this turbulent moment. 

Like you, I envision our College of the Liberal Arts as a scholarly hub of activity where cutting-edge knowledge is shared, new interdisciplinary discoveries are made, diverse viewpoints are not only welcomed but expected, democratic principles are implemented as well as theorized, and we use our individual and collective expertise to actively weigh in on the major social, economic, political, and cultural issues of the day. Our institutes and centers – including the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, Rock Ethics Institute, Africana Research Center, and the Richards Civil War Era Center – have an especially important role to play in shepherding critical dialogue and even professional wellness, and I encourage you to stay connected to their programming activities. As Joy Connolly, president of the American Council of Learned Societies writes in an open letter released today, ”Now More Than Ever We Must Promote the Value of Humanistic Study.” For those of you teaching this semester, I also recommend the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence’s Teaching through the Election, a resource guide that includes a section on “Considerations for your Approach to the Post-Election Classroom.” 

In a similar spirit, I urge you to tune in at 6 pm this evening for a University roundtable discussion (“The Day After: Assessing the Post-Election State of the Nation”) featuring Michael Berkman, director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy; Candis Watts Smith, Brown-McCourtney Early Career Professor in Political Science and African American Studies; Royel Johnson, assistant professor of education and African American Studies; and Emme Devonish, University ethics officer. The event will be moderated by Keith Gilyard and Jennifer Hamer, Liberal Arts faculty and senior faculty mentors in the Office of Educational Equity, and it will be livestreamed at

Nothing about the last several months has been what we expected, but I remain impressed, grateful, and heartened by how well we have fared and continue to fare. Please take good care of yourselves.