1.viii Public Humanities

Avila, Maria, with contributions from Alan Knoerr, Nik Orlando, and Celestina Castillo. 2010. “Community Organizing Practices in Academia: A Model, and Stories of Partnerships.” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 14 (2): 37–63. http://openjournals.libs.uga.edu/index.php/jheoe/article/view/43/38.

Avila shares the details of her model of civic engagement at Occidental College in Northeast Los Angeles—a model focused on practical long-term reciprocal partnerships between communities and academics, rather than on abstracted discourse about the issues involved in maintaining these partnerships. Avila’s model includes assessing the interest of college members (e.g., faculty, community partners, and students), building a leadership team, creating dynamic strategies and programs, and engaging in critical reflection. She concludes by speculating whether other institutions eager to build academic community partnerships in order to bring about positive cultural and social change could adopt her model.

Brown, David W. 1995. “The Public/Academic Disconnect.” In Higher Education Exchange Annual, 38–42. Dayton, OH: Kettering Foundation.

Brown suggests that cuts in financial support—as a result of the unwillingness of the public to support institutions—are at the root of the crisis in higher education. He argues that this is a natural reaction, given that many colleges and universities are often disengaged from the interests of the public and may not benefit the community in obvious ways. According to Brown, this calls for a rethinking of institutional practices, and could be remedied by having academics engage in public problem-solving with the community, rather than by merely talking to the community. Brown argues that universities or regional consortiums should establish civic training centres in which academics and members of the community can engage in productive discourse toward problem-solving strategies together. In these training centres, faculty members could also offer students the necessary skills to approach situations that resemble real-life complexities and diversities. Brown believes that if an entire diverse campus worked actively toward a public goal, the rhetoric of multiculturalism could move closer to being realized in practice.

Ellison, Julie. 2008. “The Humanities and the Public Soul.” Antipode 40 (3): 463–71. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8330.2008.00615.x.

Ellison describes public scholarship in the arts and humanities as having the distinct quality of an educated hopefulness. The unique discourse of public scholarship can confront complex issues, serve as an opportunity for practical experimentation, and participate publicly for the benefit of the larger community. Ellison argues that there are several models available to link public scholarship discourse to economies of cultural work in order to set it into practice. For Ellison, a space must be created for these discourses to be held and expanded by representatives of the university and the community. She provides as an example the Imagining America consortium, which consists of individuals, institutions, and associations whose agenda is to move public interest to the centre of higher education, often through multidisciplinary project-based work. Ellison envisions the future of public scholarship in the humanities and arts to be a space where discouragement, uncertainties, and complexities voiced by community partnerships would be seen as conditions of possibility and opportunities for the production of new knowledge.

Ellison, Julie, and Timothy Eatman. 2008. Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University. Syracuse, NY: Imagining America. http://imaginingamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/TTI_FINAL.pdf.

Ellison and Eatman discuss how the administrative side of American universities lags behind in terms of tenure and promotion policies, despite the increase in publicly engaged academic work. Through a series of interviews and substantial research, Ellison and Eatman clearly outline the current position of scholars doing work in publicly engaged fields and the anxieties involved in pursuing this work, including the strong discouragement by many universities themselves. The report serves as a guide for members of the university to change the position of publicly engaged scholarship so as to make it appropriate for career development by adapting policies regarding tenure and promotion. Ellison and Eatman address the importance of adjusting university policies according to informed graduate student demands, so that publicly engaged scholars of the future will stay and thrive on campus. The authors also acknowledge that adjusting policies is only part of the process; they offer a pathway to a larger change with regard to present conceptions of “peer” and “publication” that would make the production of knowledge more inclusive on campus and in the community.

Farland, Maria M. 1996. “Academic Professionalism and the New Public Mindedness.” Higher Education Exchange Annual: 51–57. http://www.unz.org/Pub/HigherEdExchange-1996q1–00051.

Farland points to the sudden increase of scholars interested in the public, especially following the recent discontent expressed against universities for their relative absence from the public sphere. However, examining this interest more closely, Farland argues that academics have picked up the term “public” merely as an opportunity to develop their careers in their specialized disciplinary domains rather than to address the actual needs of wider society as demanded by politicians, media, and the public at large. This can be remedied by engaging higher education in public problem-solving and debates. Farland concludes that the new public mindedness will allow the university to maintain its present status, and to restore its relation to public life, when academic practices are brought into a direct conversation with the problems a community faces.

Haft, Jamie. 2012. “Publicly Engaged Scholarship in the Humanities, Arts, and Design.” Animating Democracy: 1–15. http://imaginingamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/JHaft-Trend-Paper.pdf.

Haft points to exemplary projects and initiatives in American campuscommunity practices through the lens of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, a “national coalition working explicitly at the nexus of publicly engaged scholarship and the humanities, arts, and design” (2). Her main argument is for the urgency of building, maintaining, and expanding an infrastructure for publicly engaged scholarship. This infrastructure, Haft believes, could solve pressing issues from a local to a national scale. She points to several existing practices in publicly engaged scholarship that share a common set of values, including community/campus engagement and dialogue, improving communities though collaboratively produced knowledge, and assuring cultural diversity and social equity. Haft concludes by arguing that the humanities should not be dismissed in favour of the sciences, because the humanities offer efficient ways to address and deal with urgent problems in their complexities.

Jay, Gregory. 2012. “The Engaged Humanities: Principles and Practices for Public Scholarship and Teaching.” Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship 3 (1): 51–63. humanities-principles-and-practices-for-public-scholarship-andteaching/.

Jay addresses the new role that the humanities can adopt in face of the present funding crisis in higher education due to its perceived absence from the public sphere. He argues that the humanities should work toward implementing a problem-based learning approach that equips students and faculty to deal with complex public issues more effi tly. Jay also advocates for the continued shift toward a digital mode of learning and scholarship. Through clear examples and guidelines, Jay outlines the concrete steps that should be taken at the institutional level to ensure that this shift is meaningful for the members of both the university and the community. He addresses the vital role that new media, the Internet, and technology play in higher education, and its relation to the public sphere, especially in terms of the production and dissemination of knowledge to a wider audience. Although it is still unclear how to assess the scope of the humanities’ benefit for the public sphere, Jay believes that if the campus were an active member of the community, rather than a passive observer, this would be a step in the right direction.