Why “Media and the Faculty”?

The theme for the current issue of Academe, “Media and the Faculty,” was selected to encourage us to get more involved in the public debates surrounding higher education. As I write in my “From the Editor” column:

we have to become our own advocates. Joining the AAUP, of course, is a first step, but each of us needs to do more. We should shape the public perception of the faculty; we should shine a light on ourselves. Too often, administrators, politicians, journalists, and think-tank pundits have a greater impact on how people see us than we do ourselves.

We have to do so well… and carefully. As Greg Loving and Jeff Cramerding, authors of the article “Five Rules for Dealing with the Media,” wrote for this blog,

If there is any case that highlights the importance of faculty dealing wisely with the media, it’s the case of University of Missouri Professor Melissa Click. During student protests in fall 2015, she was recorded on camera asking for some “muscle” to keep reporters from covering a student protest. She received death and rape threats, and a group of Republican lawmakers are now using the situation as a political tool, calling for her resignation.

I’m certain that Professor Click, who teaches Communications, supports freedom of the press. She does not deserve what is being heaped upon her. And in fact, she apologized for her actions. None of that matters in the public eye, though. One bad incident, one video capture, one bad quote, has summarized her, and all professors, for many.

Because of the ways we are often demonized, we all need to become expert at presenting ourselves, our profession and our institutions in the media.

This won’t be the last issue of Academe addressing this topic four-square. In fact, Professor Martin Kich, one of the editors of this blog and a former guest editor of the magazine, is collecting and preparing articles relating to media and the faculty for our May/June issue, which will continue with the theme. Dr. Kich deserves an extra degree of thanks for the work he put in on the current issue–and for the next one.

Howard Zinn said,

I’m worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel–let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they’re doing. I’m concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that’s handed down to them.

For our own sakes, and theirs, we need to stop being simply cogs in the wheel, too.


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