President’s Lecturer to Discuss the ‘Crisis in Higher Education’

April 14, 2017

MISSOULA – An award-winning essayist and critic will deliver the Lucile Speer Memorial Lecture to conclude the 2016-17 President’s Lecture Series at the University of Montana.

William Deresiewicz will outline how he believes higher learning in education has lost its way in the lecture “The Crisis in Higher Education” delivered in collaboration with UM’s College of Humanities and Sciences at 8 p.m. Monday, April 24, in the University Center Ballroom.

Deresiewicz also will lead the seminar “A Jane Austen Education” from 3 to 4:30 p.m. the same day in Gallagher Business Building Room 123, during which he will examine the work of Jane Austen as a way of showing how education must be understood once again in terms of intellectual and moral purposes. The lecture and seminar are free and open to the public.

Since receiving a doctorate in English literature from Columbia University in 1998, Deresiewicz has taught at Yale and Columbia universities, offering courses on British fiction, the Great Books, Indian fiction, and writing. He also has been a contributing writer at The Nation and a contributing editor at The American Scholar. His cultural journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Republic, Slate, Bookforum, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Yorker online and The London Review of Books.

He is the author of “A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship and the Things that Really Matter” and the best-selling “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.”

Deresiewicz wrote the 2015 article “The Neoliberal Arts: How College Sold Its Soul to the Market,” which appeared in Harper’s. The article continued a discussion vigorously begun the year before with his book about how higher learning in America had lost its way. He identified neoliberalism as the underlying reason for the plight of the university today. Neoliberalism in a university setting, the article proclaimed, tells students that they are valuable only in terms of their activity in the marketplace – their getting and spending.

“College is seldom about thinking and learning anymore,” Deresiewicz wrote. “It is instead about meeting workforce needs. Hence, we are witnessing the stampede of students into vocational fields and their abandonment of the humanities, indeed of the idea of learning as an end in itself.”

Deresiewicz has established himself as the leading diagnostician of this “crisis” in education.

The President’s Lecture Series at UM consists of eight talks throughout the academic year on vital topics by distinguished guest speakers. For more information on the series, visit or call UM history Professor Richard Drake at 406-243-2981.


Contact: Richard Drake, UM history professor and lecture series organizer, 406-243-2981,