The members of CRITS and CRISES want to launch a discussion within our academic institutions on the possibilities for collective action aimed at creating suitable space for emancipatory social innovations within the areas of community service, research and pedagogy.
This seminar is open and does not necessarily require you to present research findings. It will be structured as follows: The morning begins with a series of three workshops linked to three aspects of our professorial tasks. Following this, in the afternoon, we will tackle the challenge of collective action in order to assert the principles and practices consistent with a shared vision of social innovation and transformation.
Voices that critique the exclusive and alienating nature of the academic environment have grown increasingly louder over the past few years. There are multiple forms of institutional pressures that operate contrary to the aspirations of talented and committed scholars who seek to embark on an academic career.
Craig Calhoun, former president of the research council of social sciences in the United States of America, depicted the academic environment as the most hierarchical environment. This is observable in universities where the Professors find themselves ranked according to the hierarchical structures of the institutions, Assistant Professors attempt to secure permanent positions for themselves, while a growing number of qualified individuals without a permanent position are in an environment of constant competition and precariousness, tasked with either teaching courses or a research contract. Universities are compared to one another according to the prestige stemming from their research through their national and global rank. Thus, excellence is reduced to a small number of variables that corral towards a uniform university model. This greatly influences universities and their departments in the hiring process of professors, their allocation of resources, and the type of work that is promoted. These pressures confine us to the logic of competition and are contrary to the repeated calls for a vision of a more humanistic university capable of making a difference in society and contributing to social justice. For all the above-mentioned reasons, the invitation of Chandra T. Mohanty, to fundamentally transform our institutional practices, seems to us to be extremely relevant.
The first aspect of the conference touches upon the various experimentations in research and is aimed to reconnect with the idea of social engagement. It is evident that the resources and privileges at our disposal have enormous potential to support social organisations. However, it appears that our daily academic practices hinder us from promoting spaces for convergence and collaboration. For many of us, the lack of time, whether that be for courses, committees, supervision, subsidy applications, research, etc. means that the tension between available resources and time, limits the transforming potential of planned projects. As a matter of fact, the collaborative, participatory, and research action approaches are highly developed in their various theoretical and methodological declination; however, is it correct to claim that, currently, they have not been particularly influential in bringing about important changes in the daily practices of professors employed in our institutions? How can the professorial autonomy be defended and collaborative research, that brings advantages to epistemological justice, be promoted, when for example, facing political or economic pressures? Beyond the development of new knowledge, how can it contribute to the co-production of collective action?
The second aspect of the conference aims to address practical pedagogy which, due to the competition for financial resources among universities, is undermined. The maximisation of revenues of institutions is being emphasized at the expense of administrative decisions made on the matter of pedagogy. Not only does this result in an increase of administrative staff, but also leads to a rise in the professor-student ratio; moreover, in addition to the hiring process, it is becoming more and more frequent that professors are hired on temporary contracts and are faced with an increasing workload. These practices are the result of continuous neoliberal reforms. Due to the lack of resources, professors are consequentially forced to take refuge in the magisterial positions and significantly reduce the promotion of and participation in dialogues and discussions. Paulo Freire described this model of education as “banker” within which the transfer of knowledge is unilateral, formal, and disembodied. Freire opposed this model, favouring one that is liberating, encompasses flexibility in its content, and at its peak cultivates a “critical spirit”. The professors ought to be dedicated to leaving the banker model of pedagogy behind, for remaining within devalues the efforts made in pedagogical experiments. The current pedagogical framework is all the more unsatisfactory for researchers who are devoting their work to matters of social innovation and social transformation, as well as those seeking to create new knowledge in general. What are the pedagogical practices that promote us to be in accord with our aspirations, our research results, and our teaching? Outside of the professorial soliloquy with whom can these new ideas be implemented? Which are the necessary principles of pedagogy to be promoted and reintroduced to our institutions?
The third facet is concerned with the processes of institutional transformation. How can programs and financing that involve practices which are in opposition to the current stream be implemented? Beyond the limited and individual experiences, how can direct investments in the development of institutional spaces within universities be made that are aimed at reversing the neoliberal path on a small-scale? The individuals who contest the idea of universities being spaces for competition too often abandon the administrative tasks despite these being responsible for direction and social projects to departments or programs. The current reality we are faced with forces us to ask the tricky question of how can our institutions be changed in this place and time. Let us begin with the following proposition: in order to transcend the disciplinary logic of the academic environment, which is a necessary concerted action, it would transform the university in a space of social innovation and collective mobilisation. This implies the integration of our professional practices with an engaged dimension of collective organisation to achieve concrete gains, in order to be able to bring about an effective and engaging form of research and a style of pedagogy that reflects that. This idea of questioning, which has been implemented for several years now (as can be seen with the examples of the Academic Manifesto or this essay at USP), is essential in the context of the Climate Crisis or the multiple rules and regulations in academic excellence which are to be seen as part of the problem (let us consider the celebration of the upcoming academic conference). How can the spaces in the academic environment be planned and developed that allows them to be responsive to other forms of logic? This challenge requires us to prefigure, create, collaborate, become a part of, and, hence, reconnect with the aspirations that would lead more individuals to pursue an academic career.
Hence, we invite you to day to exchange ideas on the matter of pedagogy and engagement within universities.
- A proposal is not necessary for you to participate.
- Please inform us regarding your intention to join us, specifying your email and affiliation, prior to March 15th 2020.
- We welcome suggestions for papers, animated sessions, or other types of activities. If this is of interest to you, please send us a title and a summary of 200 words.
To confirm your attendance, for further inquiries, or to send your proposals please contact Philippe Dufort (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The event will take place at the Atelier d’innovation sociale Mauril-Bélanger, 95 Clegg Street.