Blog 4: Scholar Activism, Institutions, and Tenure

As the weeks continue, my initial narrow idea of what I considered scholar-activism is shifting and evolving. As Professor David Vanness stated, “Scholar-activism takes many forms. Scholar-activists could write blogs, publish op-ed pieces, or orchestrate a silent protest.” Yet, no matter what action is being taken, the end goal is still the same — make their voice heard. Having this shift in thinking has also led me to ponder a tough question: Is one a scholar-activist by way of being a scholar or is one a scholar-activist by way being an activist? I think it is very interesting to dissect the nuances of the term and see where individuals fall.

To my surprise, many of our speakers use blogging as their form of scholar-activism. If used correctly and enough buzz is generated, blogs seem to be a viable mechanism for scholar-activist. Our speakers this week provided two good examples.

Our first speaker, Professor John McAdams, had an interesting way of viewing himself. He does not consider himself a political-activist, but he blogs to “shake things up”. I did not get a chance to ask, but I wonder how he differentiates a political-activist from a scholar-activist. To me, in his case, the two seem one in the same. That is, as a professor trained in Political Science, he has a vested interest in getting involved with political issues for the sake of promoting, impeding or raising awareness about a certain issue or set of issues. Typically, this is done through protest, demonstrations, or in his case, lectures and blogs. This is very similar to the work of a scholar-activist.

Moving forward, Professor McAdams, made some valid points about not silencing anyone’s voice. However, his statement, “If someone wants a voice, then they can have one,” is not entirely true. As someone in class mentioned, historically, certain demographics of people have been marginalized for centuries, which makes it more difficult for their voices to be heard. While he may think that it is racist for someone to say he should not say certain things because he is a White male, in the same breath, Professor McAdams should take heed to the privilege he has been afforded. His statement implies that everyone is on level playing fields when that it is not the case in today’s society.

Our second speaker, Professor Kelly Wilz, had an interesting story. As she told her story, I could not help but wonder, why did she not leave her institution that was under funded and under resourced? Then, I thought to myself, if scholar-activist fled when faced with opposition or difficulties, then they would not be much of an activist. But, seeing that a blog connected her and Professor Goldrick-Rab made me realize how effective the internet and social media really are.

One thing that has been lingering since we have been having these speakers is the concept of money and scholar-activism. While I am aware that the speakers we have in class are not paid, but is being paid to give a talk, lecture, or speech still considered scholar-activism?