To the Editor:
The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) applauds you for highlighting the urgent need to support publicly engaged scholarship (“The Insular World of Academic Research,” The Chronicle, August 23). Especially at a time when the relevance of humanistic study is frequently called into question, the academy must do more to support, recognize, and reward research that expresses the interests and ideal audiences of the 21st century scholar.
ACLS is working toward what we call a “new academy” that is just and equitable, providing supportive and smooth paths for all, including first-generation scholars, women, scholars of color, and scholars pursuing approaches to scholarship that, as Fischer points out, often encounter resistance.
In spring 2022, ACLS awarded 24 Sustaining Public Engagement Grants, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, to assist public-humanities projects disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Graduate Public Humanities Experiential Learning Partnerships at Rutgers-New Brunswick, the Flint Neighborhood History Project with the University of Michigan, Santa Clara University’s effort to include Indigenous perspectives in California’s Spanish colonial mission sites: University-community collaborative projects like these are a key element of the “new academy” to which we aspire.
Through the Luce Design Workshop for a New Academy, ACLS established a cross-institutional community of change-minded administrators, faculty, and graduate students who (among other things) developed ways to reward public scholarship and other work that is often excluded from tenure and advancement reviews at R-1 institutions. In 2023 ACLS launched the Leadership Institute for a New Academy, funded by the Mellon Foundation, to support a new generation of higher-education leaders committed to change along these and related lines.
To those expressing worry or skepticism about publicly engaged scholarship, we say: The academy is and must be more intellectually generous and ambitious. ACLS is proud of its work in this area, through which we believe we will better serve scholars, scholarly research, students, and society at large.
American Council of Learned Societies