Whoo-hoo. Macalester Religious Studies gets a nod in Newsweek as one of the “Thriving” religious studies departments. In an article largely critical of Harvard’s religious studies, (not critical of the faculty, but of the organization of the faculty), the author writes
Religion at Harvard doesnt even merit its own department. Professors who teach religion classes generally belong to other departments—anthropology, say, or Near Eastern languages. A Committee on the Study of Religion oversees the courses, but it cant hire and fire, and it cant grant tenure. Diana Eck, the top scholar of world religions who runs the program, argues that its second-class status prevents it from drawing the biggest talent to campus—and, as a result, the most gifted students. There are great teachers of religion at Harvard, she says, but because theyre members of other departments, their reputations dont enhance the religious-studies program. Eck mentions Emory, Oberlin, Swarthmore, Smith, Carleton, and Macalester as places where religion departments thrive.
Harvard likes to regard itself as the best of the best. Yet even public universities—the University of Texas, Arizona State, and Indiana University, for example—generate more excitement around the subject of religion than Harvard does. A new religious-studies program at the University of Minnesota was launched last year; already it has more than 50 majors. “I have just been amazed at the breadth of the embrace that we have received here,” says Jeanne Kilde, a professor of classics and Near Eastern studies who runs the program. Last year 33 Harvard undergrads chose to major in religion, compared with 704 in economics, 408 in government, 217 in history, and 45 in classics. “Hist and Lit,” another boutique major without an official department, had 155 majors. In religious studies, says Eck, “we patch things together the best we can.”
I can’t take all the credit (or even most of it!): I have really excellent colleagues.