This year, CAHI brings two colleagues from Michigan State University who have been thinking a lot about the future of the university, Bill Hart-Davidson and Kathleen Fitzpatrick. They will together present some results of recent collaborations between them in a talk titled “Toward a More Humane University.”
Hart-Davidson has been involved—as both rhetorician and administrator—with rethinking how we measure professional achievement, how we make judgments for promotion, salary, and so on. He has also developed very successful models for helping faculty in getting and making the most of grants and fellowships. Fitzpatrick has been imagining futures for academic work for years now, not least with her important work Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Book (NYU 2011). After having served for several years as Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association, Fitzpatrick will share the wealth of her experience and reflection, and her concept of “generous thinking.”
Part I: “Toward a More Generous University”
Higher education occupies a difficult place in twenty-first-century American culture. Universities―the institutions that bear so much responsibility for the future health of our nation―are at odds with the very publics they are intended to serve. It is imperative that we re-center the mission of the university to rebuild that lost trust. Critical thinking―the heart of what academics do―can today often negate, refuse, and reject new ideas. In an age characterized by rampant anti-intellectualism, my recent book Generous Thinking charges the academy with thinking constructively rather than competitively, building new ideas rather than tearing old ones down. We need to rethink how we teach the humanities and to refocus our attention on the very human ends―the desire for community and connection―that the humanities can best serve.
Part II: “Beyond Zero Sum Thinking in Planning & Evaluating Faculty Careers”
We can together enact a holistic approach to faculty development that escapes the zero-sum trap that Kathleen Fitzpatrick exposes in Generous Thinking. I will present one such model grounded in Iris Marion Young’s critique of distributive justice - in a nutshell, the way we unnecessarily ration non-finite social goods to construct and/or maintain oppressive hierarchies. In higher education, the *ends* toward which we work in public are all non-finite: knowledge, understanding, inspiration, even reputation. It is also true of the ends we claim as part of our public mission: health, inclusion, sustainability, Democractic participation in society, etc. At MSU, we posed a question that lead us down another path: what would a career-oriented evaluation approach look like if we measured those things that matter most at the end of a career—the kinds of things we talk about in folks’ retirement encomia—right from the beginning?
Both Hart-Davidson and Fitzpatrick will offer workshops on the morning of Friday, November 15. Hart-Davidson will share information he has developed to help faculty researchers in arts and humanities succeed in the world of grants and fellowships: on shaping ideas, pitching, project management, and more.
With the Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities, Fitzpatrick will hold a “Generous DAH” workshop aimed at helping faculty re-envision some of the elements of their current research projects in light of concepts behind Generous Thinking (collaboration, collective-interest projects with a public facet), as well as how such work can be present in the classroom.