The University Record, November 19, 1996

Symposium honors Cantor, urges Americans to expand story repertoire

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

"When I was a student here," said Mary Frances Berry, "we never imagined there would be a woman dean of anything."

Berry, who teaches history and law at the University of Pennsylvania, was among the featured speakers at a Nov. 8 symposium honoring Nancy Cantor, the new dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and vice provost for academic affairs-graduate studies.

The current chairperson of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Berry was first appointed to the commission by President Carter in 1980. She was fired by President Reagan for criticizing his policies, then reappointed by President Clinton in 1993.

The title of her speech was "The Stories People Tell: The Rape of the Pig Farmer’s Daughter and Other Justice Tales."

To ensure justice in America, Berry said, "we must give voice to previously silenced narratives. We must avoid internalizing the master’s narrative. And we must expand America’s repertoire of stories."

After Berry finished speaking, Dean Cantor summed up the day. She touched on how the the program and speakers, men and women from disciplines as diverse as history, biochemistry, classics and engineering, embodied one important aspect of the symposium’s title---"Graduate Education: New Faces, New Ideas, New Realities." Then she provided some insights into her goals for the Graduate school.

"First and foremost, graduate education depends on the new faces we can provide for at the table," Cantor said. We need to do that, she emphasized, for moral and intellectual reasons. "If we don’t engage a wide range of participants, our canons will resonate with fewer and fewer people," she said. "That’s especially true of graduate education. As an institution, we cannot afford to isolate ourselves from our stakeholders."

"We owe it to graduate students to see ourselves as place-holders," she continued, "not the givers of staid dogma."

We should also think about the place of work in family life and the place of family life in work, said Cantor, the mother of a 6-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy, who is autistic. "When I went to graduate school, you didn’t dare raise any questions about this. If there’s one thing having a woman dean should do, it is to raise questions about the proper place of life, work, love and family in graduate education."