MU professor encourages faculty members to become activists
Posted July 1, 2008
COLUMBIA, MO -- Beyond teaching classes, researching and writing journal articles, many college faculty members spend time improving their campuses and communities through activism. However, few consider this work “activism” and many are not recognized for it, according to a University of Missouri professor.
“The work that defines activism and leadership among faculty is often scholarly service,” said Jennifer Hart, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy analysis in the MU College of Education. “Despite the fact that activism promotes knowledge, it is the least valued factor in terms of tenure and promotion.”
Many faculty participate as members of committee that address campus diversity, family-friendly policies and pay equity. Often faculty members present research findings and hard data to demonstrate their positions and host workshops to educate their university community. Many times positive changes result from these efforts.
Few will self-identity as activists, believing their work is not radical enough to be considered activism. According to Hart, faculty members often remain cautious about activism until they receive tenure. Hart encourages faculty to consider ways to redefine the risks and rewards of activism and leadership on campuses to make it more appealing.
“Activism and leadership are defined narrowly by too many,” Hart said. “Many define activism as activities like sit-ins, boycotts and protests. However, activism can be as simple as researching, engaging in service learning with students or simply voicing opinions in meetings when others are being silenced or marginalized. Grassroots activism and leadership are invaluable processes in trying to eliminate inequality”
Hart studied feminist faculty activist groups at the University of Nebraska and University of Arizona. Her research will be published in New Horizons for Leadership Development of Faculty and Administrators in Higher Education.