It’s Not About “Us”: Express Newark Prioritizing the Public Good
Keywords:community engagement; arts and culture; faculty roles and rewards; anchor institution; social design; third space
Publically engaged scholarship demands new ways of working within and outside of the academy.
Systems within the university reward faculty for individual achievements. This approach militates against working on collaborative projects because of the difficulty of explaining and quantifying one’s contribution. The culture of academia further inhibits potential collaborations and undermines even the most altruistic faculty, who are socialized to devalue the experiential, place-based knowledge of a community partner and encouraged to adopt a self-concept as “the” authority.
But if universities are to honor their commitment to the public good, the public must be prioritized in the academic value system, which ought to encourage new modes of thinking that recognize the legitimacy of the expertise of community partners and place value on collaboration with them.
From the community perspective, there is often a lack of models for successful collaboration, with engagement by universities more often than not taking the form of exercising eminent domain or parachuting in to “fix” a problem and then abandoning the community. Community members carry with them skepticism that the university’s only use is as a source of hand-outs rather than a source of the kind of agency afforded by true collaboration.
Cantor, Nancy, Peter Englot and Marilyn Higgins, “Making the Work of Anchor Institutions Stick: Building Coalitions and Collective Expertise,” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, Volume 17, Number 3, p. 17 (2013).
Gilbert, Rodney, personal communication with Tamara Fleming, November, 2012.
Giloi, Eva, Newark Rhythms project, personal communication with Victor Davson, October 7, 2017.
U.S. News and World Report, “Campus Ethnic Diversity – National Universities,” posted Sept. 11, 2017. <https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/campus-ethnic-diversity>