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From the Editor: Campuses and Communities

By Michael Ferguson

What responsibilities do colleges and universities have to communities beyond their campuses? How should academic institutions and their constituent schools and departments engage with outside groups and concerns? Such questions animate town-gown politics, but they apply equally to other kinds of community relations. Although the contributors to this issue of Academe address a varied set of topics, they share an interest in the complexities of higher education’s obligations to the outside world. In articles that emphasize the imperative to engage with—and develop policies responsive to—social concerns, they look beyond traditional ways of framing the relationship between campuses and communities.

The outward-facing work of colleges and universities sometimes requires first looking inward. In this issue’s lead article, Stephen M. Gavazzi and John N. Low examine the far-reaching implications of recent reporting on the role of land-grant institutions in the dispossession of Native lands. Acknowledgment of that history is only an initial step toward atonement, they write; humility and genuine engagement with Indigenous communities, combined with measures such as financial support for Native American students and partnerships with tribal colleges, are also essential to the work of reparation.

Other articles focus on thorny policy issues involving social responsibilities and academic freedom. Michael Schwalbe, taking a critical look at corporate partnerships with universities, argues that claims about the benefits of such arrangements—and about the academic freedom of individual researchers who accept industry funding—should not outweigh considerations of their social costs. Those costs include, above all, the normalization of corporate crime and the “positive aura” that association with universities can lend to even the most destructive industries. Brian Soucek, in the article that follows, turns to questions about academic freedom and departmental speech: who speaks for departments, and what can institutions and institutional units say about matters of public concern such as antiracism or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Guidelines for (and the AAUP’s positions on) statements issued in the name of academic units are less clear than those pertaining to speech by individual faculty members, but that does not mean that departments should never respond to events in the broader world—and Soucek lays out a nuanced set of considerations for such institutional expression.

This issue concludes with two articles that shift from the societal level to familial concerns. Heather K. Olson Beal and her colleagues discuss their research on policies addressing the presence of children on campus, arguing that the needs of caregivers and the views of the campus community should inform decision-making at any institution that claims a commitment to “family-friendliness.” Finally, Atia Sattar reflects on higher education’s erasures of non-tenure-track faculty women of color, particularly mothers. The failure to acknowledge the labors of these women, she suggests, must be examined both for what it renders invisible and for what it reveals about the hierarchies still upheld in our institutions and the obstacles to social progress still in place.

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