Academe brings faculty the latest news and thought-provoking commentary.
Click here for the latest issue of Academe
“Do more with less.” This is the refrain we hear as we march off to teach classes with more students, design distance learning and massive open online courses, draft outcome assessment documents, and publish more. And, of course, committees, committees, committees.
Contributors to this special issue of Academe—guest-edited by Michelle Massé, coeditor of Over Ten Million Served: Gendered Service in Language and Literature Workplaces—look at the ways in which “service to the profession,” that most elastic of labor categories in higher education, has become one of the places where we do more.
Steeped in humanistic tradition and praxis hard-wrung from experience, we edit books and journals, volunteer for task forces, develop community writing projects, mediate grievances, seek collective bargaining rights, and help to govern our professional organizations. Focusing in particular on how “soft” areas such as the humanities are charged with, and charged for, service, the powerful voices heard in this issue answer Marc Bousquet’s question—“If the rewards are so slim, why do it?”—with committed, principled statements that resonate for all faculty members.
In “Shaping the Humanities through Sustainable Service,” Kirsten Christensen makes a case for passion, moderation, and sustainability that doesn’t exceed our “ecological carrying capacities.” Christensen asks whether the time is ripe for a new AAUP statement on service “to which all organizations and scholars, both in and beyond the humanities, can look for guidance.”
Anna Nardo, like the other authors in this edition, will provide some of that guidance until then. Detailing the course that leads her to see union organization as a key to our collective future, Nardo urges, in “No Choice but to Serve,” that we join her in looking for the union label.
The ethics of caregiving sketched in different ways by Christensen and Nardo are addressed specifically by Linda Adler-Kassner and Duane Roen in “An Ethic of Service in Composition and Rhetoric.” Adler -Kassner and Roen encourage service while refusing the definition implied by terms such as “service courses.”
In “We Are All Roman Porn Stars Now,” Marc Bousquet offers a witty, but wounding, analysis of our putative meritocracy. Arguing that we can indeed choose not to serve, he advocates “a painful repudiation of the belief that gladiation offers a professional and meritocratic venue in which ability is inevitably recognized.”
Maria Cotera demonstrates a keen awareness of what it means to provide public spectacles, and of how every academic has to learnto survive in two worlds in “Reimagining the Meanings of Service on the Streets of Detroit.”
What Cotera brings to the streets of Detroit, Thomas Miller brings back to the campus itself in “The Academy as a Public Works Project.” Insisting that we develop assessments that support collaboration and the work of public humanities programs—as well as the work of those developing these assessments—Miller argues for engagement as a responsibility.
The vicissitudes of engagement inform Donna Potts’s “Service, Sex Work, and the Profession.” Emphasizing that we must make a commitment to social justice, Potts maintains that “I have no choice but to help other survivors,” both on and off campus. Astutely positioning gendered economic injustice on a continuum with other forms of injustice, Potts, like every author in this edition of Academe, calls for collective action to ensure that our work is seen and heard, and that together we can change the workplaces in which we serve.
As always, we welcome your thoughts about this issue of Academe. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.