Absence of Faculty Leads to Changes in MEMS Major

Jacob DeCarli ’22, Managing Editor

The retirement of a faculty member in the Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) program has led to the dissolution of a required class for the major.

Former Professor of History Stephen Weinberger taught a required history class for those pursuing a major in MEMS. The class, HIST 105, “History of Medieval Europe,” was described by  Professor of Art and Art History and MEMS department coordinator Melinda Schlitt as popular class with high enrollment. “Students from across the College took this course, not just those who were History or MEMS majors,” Schlitt said. Weinberger also taught other history classes cross listed with MEMS including “Renaissance Women” and “Renaissance Europe.” 

Since Weinberger’s retirement after the Spring 2019 semester, there has not been another faculty member to teach his class, and the position will not be replaced by another faculty member. Schlitt explained that the decision not to hire another professor for the position in Medieval and Renaissance History was “strongly opposed” by faculty in the MEMS and humanities [Humanities is not a department] departments. 

The decision to not replace Weinberger’s position affects the required classes for MEMS majors. According to Schlitt, MEMS faculty and history faculty will need “to reassess the major and its requirements” to “work out a plan that can accommodate the fact that History 105 may not be offered with any regularity in the future.”

Currently, HIST 101 “The Age of Faith, Medieval Europe Between Church and State”, is cross listed with MEMS and history to fulfill the history 105 requirement. The class, taught by Assistant Professor of Religion Peter Schadler, covers the cultural aspects and time period of Europe taught by Weinberger but will also include religious institutions. Schadler is a “Byzantinist”  explained Schlitt which means Schadler has disciplinary knowledge of the Medieval time period. According to Schlitt, the allowance for HIST 101 to fulfill the requirement of HIST 105 to majors is only for the Fall 2019 semester, as the department does not “know if there will be a regular offering of History 105” due to the lack of a qualified professor to teach the course. “We will obviously need a more permanent solution that will not compromise the educational depth of the MEMS major for our students,” Schlitt said and explained that there are students in various class years who are pursuing the major.  

Students pursuing a major in MEMS have mixed reactions to the department’s current situation. Juliana Rhinehart ’22, a double major in MEMS and English, said she has heard other MEMS majors who are concerned with the situation, but she is not concerned because she took History 105 with Weinberger last year. “I doubt the MEMS classes he offered will have exactly the same focus under different professors,” Rhinehart said, “but the major is so heavily interdisciplinary that I don’t think it’ll be a huge issue.” Olivia Greenleaf ’20, a current student in Schadler’s class, said the HIST 101 class is “very informative” and “a great way to contextualize the religion of the time.” “The blessing and the curse of this major is that everything is crosslisted so it really is a toll on the history section,” Greenleaf said. Bizz Fetty ’20 finished her MEMS requirments since she declared her major during her first-year. However, she said she is “really struggling to find a professor to advice my thesis for the spring.” Fetty reflected on her frustrations with the current department situation, and that that she would “not recommend budding medievalist to apply to Dickinson.”

A more clear plan for the MEMS major requirements will be discussed by faculty after the fall semester.