To the Editor:
Faculty need to fervently pursue elected positions within federal, state, and local governments. Scholars’ current societal role is often overlooked but vital to a free and democratic society. Academics educate students in ways that encourage curiosity and inspire creativity, conduct life-saving research, and philosophize critically about solutions to complex world issues. However, the implications of independent faculty scholarship may be overshadowed by well-funded research institutes with political leanings and partisan policy agendas.
Furthermore, conservative politicians and legislators increasingly lambaste faculty for engaging with the political context that immutably permeates our fields of study and, consequently, they attack the tenure system or introduce flawed legislation to constrain campus discourse. These sentiments ultimately disparage intellectualism by repressing the open thought, constructive dialogue, and free exchange of ideas that are hallmarks of democratic higher education
After the recent election and the impending, misguided confirmation of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education, faculty, academics, and scholars remain largely displaced from the political arena. Academics, therefore, need to engage in the political context directly by running for elected government offices. Combining philosophical expertise, learning, and leadership hearkens to Platonic ideals for effective governance.
Higher-education leaders, meanwhile, would be well-suited to adopt policies that promote flexibility and job security for faculty serving in elected capacities. Supporting such policies will restore service — true public service — as one of the veritable cornerstones of the academic profession.
Graduate Student Assistant
University of Pittsburgh