Higher Education Watch
Report: Activist Faculty Too Overcome With Emotion to Do Research

A professor from an unnamed university has written to Inside Higher Education‘s advice columnist to express concern for an activist colleague who is soon up for academic review:

I can see that she’s exhausted from student protests, community protests and the weight of this current political moment. I saw her yesterday, and it looked like she hadn’t slept in days. She couldn’t stop to talk because she was coming from a teach-in and heading to a die-in. […]

I share her politics, so I’m actively working for policy change and trying to be an effective ally, but I feel like I should be doing something to support her directly. I see the additional labor she is doing (meeting with students seeking support, writing for a popular audience and being a leader in difficult campus conversations), but I’m worried about her physical health and the impact that these activities are going to have on her third-year review next year.

IHE‘s advice columnist has comforting words for her correspondent: This is quite common.

Many politically engaged faculty members are feeling stretched thin at the moment. They’re revising syllabi on the fly, making time to speak to the news media, attending protests, writing for a nonacademic audience, leading campus conversations and helping students while also processing their own emotions.

She then offers an advice checklist (“assess what it means to be an ally”), including the following items:

Are you consistently and confidently challenging microaggressions that occur in your department?

Are you willing to work for expanded definitions of what counts in the evaluation criteria on your campus? If so, how?

Are you willing to take a stand on social media by making your positions visible and/or amplifying the voices of African-American scholars?

Missing from the list: The idea that faculty should prioritize teaching and research responsibilities above participating in protests—after all, it’s important “to avoid the kind of black-and-white thinking that creates an artificial divide between activist and academic.”

No, this is not the Onion.

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