is special assistant to the vice president of institutional advancement at Queens College, City University of New York, and executive director of the University of Venus blog and nonprofit. She is currently writing her first book: Fantastic Reading: Comic Books and Popular Culture.Read Mary's entries
Author Archives: Mary Churchill
September 30, 2011, 12:57 pm
Written with Michael Brown.
Note to our readers: As we move on to the next phase of our writing partnership, we would like to thank you for joining us this past year at Old School, New School at The Chronicle. We firmly believe that more academics should write in public and use public venues to actively engage ideas and readers. We thank The Chronicle for hosting us and our editor, Jean Tamarin, for her amazing support and enthusiasm for our work. We would especially like to thank Lee Skallerup Bessette, Janni Aragon, Ana Dinescu, Vanessa Vaile, Cathy Davidson, Jason B. Jones, Billie Hara, Jessie Daniels, Alondra Nelson, Melonie Fullick, Steven Schwartz, Robert Herzog and so many others who have helped shape our ideas over the past year through their comments here on the blog, on Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail. We look forward to having you continue with us as we write the book that…
August 10, 2011, 5:22 pm
If writing op-ed pieces for newspapers such as The New York Times and The Boston Globe is considered public engagement, why isn’t that considered community engagement as well? Shouldn’t community engagement be part of public engagement?
From an institutional perspective, does community engagement require that campuses be active in their local “host” communities, or would communities in cities across the state, country, and around the world count? What are the goals of this engagement? What if your students are from the targeted community? Is the goal to benefit your students, faculty members, community, or a combination of the three?
For many institutions, the goal is engagement rather than impact.
When I Googled “Office of Community Engagement,” my first hits were higher-ed institutions. For example:
- “Community Engagement fosters, encourages, and promotes…
August 8, 2011, 5:25 pm
Written with Michael Brown
Mike: I have to admit that I’m not comfortable saying that there is an anti-intellectual tendency in American life. Intellectuals have always been a minority, and their work has always appealed primarily to specialists. So claiming that some present condition is due in part to such a tendency doesn’t quite get to the most general obstacles to critical thinking, creativity, and the like. Randy Martin’s recent book, Under New Management, provides a slightly less pessimistic account of changes in higher education than what you seem to be saying, though I must admit that I am torn.
Mary: I don’t think that intellectuals are necessarily aligned with a specific political ideology, and the anti-intellectualism I have seen is evident from folks on both the right and the left. There is a strong knee-jerk reaction to higher education in general,…
July 26, 2011, 1:11 pm
I think we can all agree that higher education is a major social structure of civil society. I would like to think that it follows that it is also an important space for civil discourse. That said, what components are necessary to encourage dialogue rather than silence dissent? The anti-intellectual trend that is deeply embedded in U.S. culture marginalizes and silences academics in society and also silences less moderate academics on our campuses. I am a firm believer in the idea that including all voices in the mix creates stronger and more creative and innovative solutions to the problems we face. However, true inclusion requires respect and compromise—two practices that are sorely missing on campuses and in contemporary society.
Denying the political dimensions of higher education is impossible, on both a practical and theoretical level. Life is political. Life is a series of…
July 15, 2011, 1:34 pm
Written with Michael Brown
Mary: Faculty members and administrators often talk over and around one another. When it comes to discussions about the crisis in the humanities and ultimately, the crisis in higher education, many faculty members take a theoretical approach to the issues. On one level, those arguments are very appealing. But they rarely have the power to translate into practical, on-the-ground changes that can be immediately implemented at our institutions.
Perhaps I am too pragmatic, or perhaps I am just frustrated. I have sat through too many faculty senate meetings and department discussions that debate the finer points of theory and mission without ever coming close to a hint of strategy and implementation. There is a great need for people in our institutions who can translate theoretical ideals into actual practices. Many faculty members are fantastic at espousing…
June 27, 2011, 12:01 pm
Iain Pears calls for a new model for the humanities, telling A.C. Grayling that he and his generation had their opportunity to protect the humanities, and they failed, miserably. Instead of coming together to create a shared vision, they squabbled over course modules, created inhospitable departments filled with petty competition and back-stabbing peer review, and spent their time and energy setting course for their own individual success stories—every tub on its own bottom.
If the purpose of higher education is to create engaged, critical thinkers, then we have failed. If the purpose of higher education is to create economically productive workers, then we have also failed. Can we create a model that simultaneously meets the demands of democracy and capitalism? Or is education, like health care, doomed to sit at the uncomfortable crossroads between our political dreams and our…
June 22, 2011, 3:16 pm
Written with Michael Brown.
Mike: In the debate over the New College of the Humanities, what is often missed is that the so-called attempt to “protect” the humanities is more fundamentally designed to protect other fields from anything that raises questions about the increasingly narrow and short-term ways in which those fields are defined –as essentially oriented to markets in products and jobs. To me, this seems to be what is involved in the most prominent attempts to preserve the humanities by isolating them, and by freeing the other, so-called practical, fields from socially critical reason. So, although I agree that the problem of how to preserve the humanities is important to engage, it is also important to look at the problem of how to protect the market-oriented fields from losing their sense of a connection to society.
Mary: Interestingly enough, the humanities are…
June 14, 2011, 1:39 pm
What is missing from A.C. Grayling’s new venture is education, or rather, an explicit idea about the mission of higher education. His project may be new in the U.K., but it is familiar to anyone who has worked with for-profit institutions of higher education. It is driven by the market and is sensitive to the whims of the market.
From the copy on the Web site, the target audience appears to be parents who want to hold on to 19th-century traditions and conceptions of the “humanities,” while making sure their children learn practical skills in how to lead companies. The intended student audience seems to be those who want to travel and have fun.
As a business venture, this seems like a good enough plan. This group will have rejected the most popular majors in the United States, business and engineering, or perhaps those areas will have rejected them. Most likely these are…
May 19, 2011, 1:17 pm
Written with Michael Brown
Mary: The issue of collegiality seems like the dirty little secret of tenure-and-promotion discussions and decisions. Mike, I think you are correct to be suspicious of the role played by administration in dictating tenure decisions. However, just as I have seen deans and provosts trump department recommendations to deny tenure, I have also seen the administration step in and award tenure when departments have voted to deny tenure. In those cases, it has clearly been an issue of “fit,” or, as you put it, collegiality. Too often, fit is conditioned by one’s race and gender. In a department dominated by white men, younger women and men of color often struggle to find that fit.
When an assistant professor is not well liked in a department and is not viewed as a team player, I feel like a colder eye is used when evaluating the tenure dossier. At times…
May 5, 2011, 5:20 pm
I have always been disturbed the lack of transparency within academic departments.
Doctoral students rarely know the requirements for comprehensive exams and dissertations at the time of application and acceptance. Sure, they know that they will have to do their comps and write a dissertation, but they don’t always know the details. Will the comprehensive exams be written? Will there be an oral component? What are the requirements for the make-up of the committees? What is the ideal length for a written exam or a dissertation? What is the process for the dissertation proposal? It would be great if guidelines for these were published and shared with applicants and students. It would be fair.
This lack of transparency continues on into the postdoctoral years, particularly with the tenure process, during which senior faculty members commonly treat junior faculty members like…