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Reproductive Justice: Activists, Advocates, and Academics in Ann Arbor

Reproductive justice, as first defined by international and women of color advocacy groups, is the right of every woman to have children, not have children, and to parent the children they have in safe and healthy environments. Thus, it is much broader than a discussion about “legal rights” which usually becomes a discussion about abortion even though legal rights actually includes equal pay for equal work, family medical leave and other post-birth accommodations, access to contraception and many other issues.

Many women in the US and elsewhere experience not only lack of a claim to abortion but also lack of a claim to maternity. For example, in the US, low-income women—disproportionately women of color—may experience their desire to bear children as illegitimate when they need expensive assisted reproductive technologies, or when federal policy prohibits increases in welfare payments after the birth of an additional child. In many resource poor regions of the world women face a 1-in-16 to 1 in 31 chance of dying in childbirth from causes that are entirely preventable if there was political will to devote resources to women and their babies.

A new movement for something broader than reproductive rights, more like international ideas of “human rights”—for reproductive justice— has grown in the past two decades, reflecting that for women of color, poor women and other marginalized women, a robust reproductive agenda includes not just the right to abortion, but the right to have a pregnancy, birth a child in a safe and meaningful way, and parent children in a safe and supportive environment.

This innovative meeting advances reproductive justice by exploring and strengthening the intersections of activism, advocacy, and academia. It offers an opportunity for academic institutions to step up and support reproductive justice work by providing a forum for meaningful dialogue and the development of new research agendas and applied projects. It will allow advocates, activists and academics to collectively explore how we can design research informed by advocacy, and generate useful and reliable data and findings that can promote reproductive justice.


The Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Research University Today: Histories, Challenges, Futures

Recession-driven demands for university based research and teaching that is applied and career-oriented have again raised the question of the appropriate place and role of the basic liberal arts and sciences in the research university. Today, for example, theoretical physicists, scholars of Hittite literature, and specialists in social theory share a feeling that their work is somewhat peripheral to their universities because it is not applied, does not develop products or does not solve obvious social problems. This is not simply an academic debate. What is at stake is the long-standing view that the breadth, depth, and in some cases sheer strangeness of the experience of the liberal arts and sciences offers students and society the chance, as Francois Hartog has written in another context, to free oneself from the present ”…as the means to decenter, to open up possibilities, and to choose new relations to link experience with the horizon of expectation, that is, to weave the past, the present, and the future otherwise.”

For a variety of historical and contemporary reasons the conversation about the place and power of the liberal arts and sciences in the research university has only rarely been joined. The rise of the research university in America, symbolized by the establishment of the Association of American Universities in 1900, usefully broadened the mission of higher education in America, but did not solve the problem of the tension between the liberal arts “colleges” at their core and the more quickly developing professional schools that soon emerged. Within such “colleges,” the over-identification of “liberal” learning with the humanities narrowed the focus of this conversation and limited the alliances between the basic sciences and their natural allies in the humanities and social sciences. When the multiversity emerged in the years after World War Two gigantic available resources fed the size of universities without necessary resolving these manifest tensions.

This Michigan Meeting, co-sponsored by the Arts and Sciences Deans of the CIC, proposes to examine the current status and future prospects of an invigorated sense of the importance of the liberal arts and sciences in the research university today by assembling national experts, members of national commissions and research groups, and leaders of the arts and sciences in peer universities nationally for two days of discussion of this important topic.