Pierce Salguero organized a meet-up at the AAR last month, bringing together folks interested in specific strategies and resources for how to make academic life more humane, compassionate, and just. One specific outcome of that meeting was the desire to formalize in some way this “movement” (if it is a movement), and so Pierce and I quickly put together a website and he threw the doors open on a Facebook group which, over the last twenty-four hours, has gone from 50 to 500 members. A couple of things.
First, if you’re not already part of this thing, please join us. We made the website, in part, specifically because not everyone is on Facebook (or they’re actively boycotting the platform for obvious reasons) and thus it can serve as a more permanent home for resources and long-form essays. Discussion may happen more readily on Facebook or Twitter (assuming this #humanehumanities hashtag takes off). But we’re trying not to be limited by platform. Apart from joining in discussions, you can contribute by directly adding content to the website, either in the form of blog posts or specific resources you may have regarding strategies, policies, systems, ideas, etc., about how to create more humane spaces within academic settings. If you’re interested in contributing to the website, send Pierce or me a message and we’ll get you set up (the site is powered by WordPress, so we’d kindly ask that you have some basic familiarity with that platform).
Second, I want to be explicit about my reasons for supporting this project. On the one hand, I’m in a position of privilege, both in terms of my identity (white, cis-, hetero-, male) as well as in my academic position (dean). I have resources both explicit (access to a server) and implicit (aforementioned privilege) that can be leverage for projects that are explicitly geared toward lifting up those with relatively less privilege. On the other hand, and somewhat more selfishly, as I mentioned at the AAR meet-up, in my position as dean, I am directly responsible for creating policies and leading an academic institution. I am directly responsible for making my institution humane — or not. What policies can I put into place that support and encourage #humanehumanities within my school? What can I learn from colleagues at other institutions? How can I actively promote a culture of mutual support and empathy, where faculty, staff, and students are treated like human beings, not neoliberal metrics or data-points for assessment? I don’t want to take for granted that just because the word “Buddhist” is in my school’s name that we’re necessarily and naturally compassionate or just. (Just because you’re Buddhist doesn’t mean you’re a Buddha.) So how do I buttress compassionate action through the dull work of policy-making? (The dull work of policy-making is, after all, a big part of the administrator’s job. But that’s a post for a different day.)
So, if this project is at all interesting to you, please join us. And I’m looking forward to learning about and building a better academia.