Dear Class of 2023,
Welcome to Michigan State University!
As we prepared our Welcome to MSU video this year, I found myself unexpectedly face-to-face with a picture of my past self as a first-year student at Wittenberg University. It brought me immediately back to a transformative time in my life.
The idea of living in one place when I went to college was exhilarating. My parents divorced when I was 7 years old, so for almost a decade my brother and I had been moving between my mother’s and my father’s house every two weeks. It would be nice, I thought, to have one place to live all year.
Still, the 10-hour drive from Philadelphia, where I grew up, to Springfield, Ohio, home of Wittenberg University, was marked more by anxiety than excitement. Living in my own place was one thing, living on my own, quite another. As my Mom and I shopped for all the things I would need for my dorm room, I could feel my emotions come increasingly to the surface. When it finally came time to give her a hug goodbye, I cried and cried.
Looking back, I now recognize that time as a pivotal period of transition for me, as the opening of a new world of ideas, as the beginning of an intellectual adventure that has come to shape my life. But at the time, despite my excitement, it felt mostly like loss and loneliness.
It wasn’t long, however, before I met Peter Tyksinski, a fellow first-year student who has become a lifelong friend. What I found in Peter then, and continue to value now, is a friend who loves ideas, reads deeply, and makes me laugh. He is a person of immense creativity who travels broadly and allows himself to be changed by the cultures he encounters. His study away experiences lent me the courage to study abroad in Vienna in the Fall of 1989 — where I began to learn German and witnessed, first hand, the crumbling of the Berlin Wall.
It wasn’t long, too, before I found myself sitting in an Introduction to Philosophy course that challenged me to consider what makes life meaningful, not in the abstract, but as an urgent question that has come to animate my life: what makes your “one wild and precious life” meaningful?
Soon, my mind was on fire with new ideas, my horizons expanded by transformative experiences. It was as if I was beginning to wake up to a life rich in meaning beyond what I could previously have imagined. Deepening our engagement with the world and those we encounter in it is at the heart of the liberal arts education on which you are now embarking.
You stand at the beginning of a great intellectual adventure. The opportunities before you are limited only by the capacity of your courage to try something new, to push beyond the boundaries of what is familiar and comfortable. And you will need courage, because learning always involves failure, growth requires resilience, and a fulfilling life calls us to put purpose into practice.
What I did not fully realize then, as I waved goodbye to my mother and to my younger self, were the opportunities opening for me as I embarked on an educational adventure that has enriched and shaped my life.
We, the faculty and staff of the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State, are here to support your educational adventure. Indulge your curiosity by taking a course outside your comfort zone; study cultures different from you own; find an internship abroad in a country that speaks a language you have yet to learn; put your values into practice by giving back to the communities about which you care; engage in research with a member of our world-class faculty; join one of more than 900 MSU student organizations. Michigan State University is rich with opportunity, and you are ready for what we have to offer.
Imagine your future self, 30 years from now, looking back at a picture of yourself during this first year of college — what will you have done to become the person you now value yourself to be?
Christopher P. Long
Dean, College of Arts & Letters
Earlier this summer, I had the honor of offering the closing keynote address of the 2019 Association of University Presses annual conference held in Detroit. The address was entitled The Transformative Power of Publishing, and it argued that the values that shape our publishing practices have the capacity to transform the culture of higher education.
Values of openness and dialogue always inform my work and I have long sought to put these values into practice in the modes by which I share and present my ideas. This commitment to performative consistency led me to develop the keynote address in the form of a Tweetstorm, a mode of presentation that enabled me to share my ideas with a wider public and invited broad engagement with themes I introduced.
A number of people have asked me about my process in developing this Tweetstorm presentation, so I thought I would say a few words about it here before embedding the presentation and responses below.
Using the iPad Twitter application, I drafted twelve tweets, each with up to four pictures which were to serve as slides for the presentation. As I developed the tweets, I saved them as drafts in a thread in the Twitter application. (The key is not to accidentally send the thread before you have completed the series!) I used Keynote to develop some of the slides, saving them as images that could then be attached to tweets. The nice thing about using images in this way is that you can tag up to 10 people who have been engaged with the theme of a tweet in the image itself. So, as I developed the presentation, I was able to mention and give credit to colleagues who helped shape some of ideas central to the presentation. Doing this intentionally enabled me to live out a commitment to collegiality through the presentation itself.
Drafting the presentation in this way requires you to consider both how you want to present ideas to those in the audience and how you want those who are not physically present to experience the address. Attending to the multiple dimensions a Tweetstorm presentation opens an opportunity to reflect more intentionally on how the mode of presentation relates to the ideas expressed. How will what you say in person add value to what you show on screen? How will someone unable to hear the oral presentation experience the themes online? How can a presentation about the transformative power of publishing become a catalyst of transformation itself by virtue of the manner in which it is made public?
This last question is at the heart of my interest in performative publishing. How ideas are made public shapes the capacity of the ideas themselves to transform publics in meaningful ways. The Tweetstorm form opens opportunities for engagement unavailable to traditional presentations. There are, of course, affordances and limitations to the Tweetstorm form. Chief among the limitations, from my perspective, is that Twitter is a for-profit company oriented toward generating revenue based on advertising. Their algorithms are oriented toward maximizing revenue, rather than to enriching communities of scholarship. For me, however, the affordances of broad public exposure and multi-modal expression outweigh these limitations. Still, even as I share the presentation here on my blog, I am aware of the extent to which enduring access to this work depends ultimately on a platform that might disappear if it proves no longer to be financially viable.
Until then, I have curated the Tweetstorm presentation into a Twitter Moment and share it here for ongoing discussion.
In the summer of 2018, a group of MSU Deans came together to write an essay that was published in Inside Higher Education under the title: “Can Michigan State Recover and Chart a New Path for Higher Education?” In the essay, we wrote:
Academe is called to cultivate institutional habits of truth telling and truth hearing, critical self-reflection, and accountability. We must consciously and intentionally empower those habits on our campuses to meet that calling.
It is one thing to call for the change we need, quite another to create institutional habits capable of putting the needed change into practice.
In her essay, “Care ethics and ‘caring’ organizations,” Nel Noddings doubts the capacity of organizations to care for members of their communities in the way required by an ethics of care. Care ethics is relational, reciprocal, and attentive to individuals in ways large organizations like universities cannot be. She summarizes her point this way:
The brief answer to the question whether large organizations can care is that, in their policies and public statements, they can express their concern; they can care-about. To translate that form of caring into genuine caring-for, they must provide the conditions under which on-site workers can engage in caring-for.1
Her position is based on a distinction between caring-about and caring-for. We can care-about many things and a multitude of people, but caring-for requires the capacity to respond to the needs of an individual in the complex context in which the person is encountered. This requires a level of attentiveness that is very difficult for organizations to achieve.
In her essay, “Care and Justice, Still,” Virginia Held outlines the contours of the attention an ethics of care requires when she writes:
From the perspective of care, in contrast [to the perspective of justice], one attends with sensitivity to particular others in actual historical circumstances, one seeks a satisfactory relation between oneself and these others, one cultivates trust, one responds to needs, aiming at and bringing about as best one can the well-being of the others along with that of oneself.2
These passages from Noddings and Held suggest that organizations must create the conditions under which members of their communities can care-for one another.
More recently, we have established the College of Arts & Letters Culture of Care Task Force (CCTF) to further advance our efforts to create the conditions under which we can more effectively care-for one another. The group includes students, faculty, and staff members and their charge is to investigate and make recommendations about:
It was heartening to have more than 40 members of our community volunteer to serve on the CCTF.
Recognizing that building the trust required to prevent harmful behavior and create a culture of care will take intentional practice over a period of years, the CCTF has been asked to initiate a process and set an agenda for the months and years to come by engaging units and leaders across the College to gather information and identify practices that will facilitate the work ahead.
Still, if Noddings is right that organizations can only practice an ethics of care if they are able to create the conditions under which individuals care-for one another, then the work of this CCTF is only one aspect of the difficult work ahead. The CCTF will help us create the conditions under which an ethics of care might be practiced.
The critical task remains for each of us to make an intentional commitment to listen, to reflect on our actions and the impact they have on others, and to infuse our encounters with one another with generosity, humility, and gratitude. The consistent, intentional practice of caring-for one another in our daily interactions is the only way a culture of care will take root and grow.
In June of 2018, I held a short workshop about the HuMetricsHSS initiative with colleagues attending the 2018 Summer Seminar – East gathering of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages that was meeting at Michigan State University.
Paula Winke, Associate Professor in the Second Language Studies program at MSU, attended the workshop. She edits the journal Language Testing. During the workshop, we focused on how the five HuMetricsHSS values might be embodied in specific practices of scholarship.
Paula’s group focused on peer review, and she left the meeting with a commitment to create a values-based award for peer review at the journal Language Testing. She and her colleague, Luke Harding, established the new Language Testing Reviewer of the Year Award this year.
The award recognizes a reviewer who has provided exceptional reviews according to the quality of the feedback they provide. Here are the criteria:
They have adopted a rubric to evaluate reviewers according to these criteria, and now have a concrete way to cultivate, reward, and recognize reviewers who provide the sort of meaningful and helpful feedback that enhances the scholarship they publish. The award also provides winners with a concrete way of documenting how their contributions embody the values for which the award stands.
The inaugural winner of the Language Testing Reviewer of the Year Award is Dr. Thomas Eckes, a reviewer who works at the TestDaF-Institut in Bochum, Germany. Sonja Zimmerman, a Ph.D candidate who works with Dr. Eckes, accepted the award at on his behalf at the International Language Testing Association’s 2019 Language Testing Research Colloquium, which was held year is in Atlanta, GA.
As we seek to identify indicators of impact for the HuMetricsHSS initiative, the establishment of this award is one we hope will have an enduring legacy.
One year ago today, Rachael Denhollander addressed the Ingham County court in Michigan, her abuser, and the institutions that failed to protect her and her #SisterSurvivors.
Listen again to part of what she said on January 24, 2018:
This is what it looks like when institutions create a culture where a predator can flourish unafraid and unabated and this is what it looks like when people in authority refuse to listen, put friendships in front of the truth, fail to create or enforce proper policy, and fail to hold enablers accountable.
These words have animated the work we have undertaken over the past year here in the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University as we have sought to live up to the expectations of care and accountability we have set for ourselves.
Rachael Denhollander’s testimony is insistent. It requires each of us to consider how our actions or inactions enable harm, how we fail to adequately listen, and how we fall short in practice of the values we hold most dear.
In the wake of this testimony, the Michigan State University Deans gathered to identify and commit ourselves to a set of core values we have sought to integrate intentionally into our leadership practices over the past year.
Keeping the crisis in front of us requires us to acknowledge that the very institutions created to transform individuals and communities through education can easily be derailed by self-interest, insecurity and competition. Academe is called to cultivate institutional habits of truth telling and truth hearing, critical self-reflection, and accountability. We must consciously and intentionally empower those habits on our campuses to meet that calling.
When we speak about creating a “culture of care” in the College of Arts & Letters, we mean to put these values and this commitment into practice through habits of conscientious attentiveness. This is a core meaning of care: to attend conscientiously to those we encounter each day. Attending to one another in this way opens the space for each member of our community to flourish in their work. To flourish one must be able to develop one’s full potential in a favorable environment, and practices of care nurture such environments.
Care is the intentional practice of attentive conscientiousness.
As Xhercis Méndez, Co-Founder of the Transformative Justice Lansing Collective, suggests in this video, it is imperative that we at MSU address the conditions that enable abuse and prevent human flourishing.
As MSU continues to undertake the difficult culture change that is required, it is important to keep in mind what my colleague Sonja Fritzsche, Associate Dean of Personnel, Administration & Undergraduate Education, emphasizes:
It is not the needs of the institution that are foremost, but those of the people who inhabit it. Over the past year, faculty, staff, students, and administrators in our units and in the College of Arts & Letters Dean’s office have engaged in creating safe spaces in our places of work where we can practice listening. We are building the foundations for a culture of care.
Addressing the conditions that enable abuse is possible only if, as Rachael Denhollander reminds us, we listen. And in listening, we must be willing to hear and believe and act.
The culture of care we need requires us to enact the values to which we are committed in each interaction we have in the unpredictable course of our daily lives.
Ribbon and Tree photo by Pearl Yee Wong.
Dear College of Arts & Letters Alumni, Students, Staff, and Faculty,
One year ago this week, the courageous testimonies of the Sister Survivors began to sow the seeds of change at Michigan State University. Taking courage from their leadership, we in the College of Arts & Letters (and in collaboration with colleges and deans across MSU) embarked upon an intentional and difficult process of critical self-reflection, ethical candor, and intentional culture change. We remain resolved to create a culture in which daily practices of care, accountability, and equity empower us to use our position and privilege to support our colleagues – students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends.
At a meeting this morning, the MSU Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint Satish Udpa, Executive Vice President for Administrative Services, as Acting President of Michigan State University. Dr. Udpa is a University Distinguished Professor and has served as Dean of the College of Engineering and Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. I wholeheartedly endorse this choice. I know Dr. Udpa to be a person of integrity, compassion, and empathy. In a letter he wrote to faculty and staff on January 30, 2018, he stated, “Let’s make sure we treat each other civilly and with kindness and make sexual harassment and other forms of abhorrent behavior alien to our culture. We owe it to ourselves to create an environment where everyone is given an opportunity to grow and thrive.”
Our goal at MSU is still to have a new president by June 2019. Nominations are being accepted, and the board and search committee plan to review applicants and conduct interviews beginning in February, with the aim of selecting a permanent president. The Presidential search timeline can be found at https://msu.edu/presidentialsearch.
Collaboratively with deans and colleges across the university, we are committed to nurturing a culture that is transparent, open, trusting, and safe, leadership that is caring and accountable, and an engaged community that is inclusive and equitable. In today’s meeting, Nancy Schlichting, a new member of our Board of Trustees, emphasized that “values matter.” Putting these values into intentional practice every day will continue to shape our work together as we make enduring culture change at MSU. I look forward to having further conversations with you as we continue to create the university we expect ourselves to be.
Christopher P. Long
Dean of the College of Arts & Letters
In this introduction to issues 1-2 of volume 66 of the Journal of General Education, Sophia Pavlos and I articulate of the meaning and importance of thick collegiality for the Journal of General Education and the General Education project.
This article is openly accessible and has been deposited on the CORE repository of the Humanities Commons: The Liberal Arts Endeavor: Thick Collegiality and General Education.
In the open letter we wrote to the College of Arts & Letters community in January 2018, we promised to look critically at ourselves, recognize our failures, and rebuild the trust that is required of us. This commitment has led to an intense period of critical self-reflection in the Dean’s Office and across the College in which we have considered the core values we aspire to embody in our work and interactions with one another.
Over the summer and through the fall, all units in the College undertook a values-based planning process in which the core values of each unit were identified and mapped onto the major initiatives each seeks to advance.
In November of 2017, the HuMetricsHSS initiative held a workshop on the “Value of Values,” in which we considered the core values that shape scholarship in the humanities and social sciences and how those values might be embodied in the practices and products of scholarship. A major takeaway from that workshop was the transformative power of conversations about values in deepening relationships with colleagues and refining our own understanding of our scholarly work.
Drawing on these lessons, we in the College of Arts & Letters Dean’s Office developed Guidelines for a Values-Based Planning Process in which we asked units to:
We invited all our units to participate in this process, including administrative units in which staff were fully engaged in the conversations that identified and mapped values.
We had a good sense of the effectiveness of this approach because we had undertaken a similar process in our August 2018 deans retreat and in our September 2018 retreat with department chairs. In the deans retreat we identified three values to which we are committed as a group. Although we have intentionally sought to enact these values in our work this year, I resisted a desire to write explicitly about them at the time, because I didn’t want to predispose units in the College as they reflected on their values and identified the practices that bring them to life.
In embarking on this values based approach to planning, we have been intentional in emphasizing that the process itself is the product. Candid conversations about the values we hold most dear and the initiatives through which we will put those values into practice build the trust we need to advance our work together with integrity.
Now that the values-based Fall Planning process in the College is complete and all units have submitted letters that articulate core values and the initiatives through which they will be enacted, it is important publicly to share and reflect upon the process and some of the results. Openness emerged as a core value, so making our process transparent and reflecting publicly on the values that shape our work is one important way to live up to our commitment to openness.
A heartening aspect of this process has been both the diversity of values that were identified across the College and the emergence of a group of what might now fairly be called the shared values of the College of Arts & Letters.
Three core values emerged as primary:
These values shaped our 2018 College of Arts & Letters Fall Planning Letter to the Provost as we articulated the initiatives through which we will put these values into practice.
One thing to note is that at the deans retreat in August we articulated equity, openness, and accountability as core values. It was heartening to see that two of the three values we had emphasized as important come up through the Fall Planning process. Where we had ‘accountability’, the College process surfaced ‘community’. The commitment to community engagement that runs through the College dovetails well with the land-grant mission of the University and with our efforts to bring the arts and humanities into the world in ways that enrich our lives together.
Accountability emerged in the Deans retreat as an internal and external check on our commitment to living up to the values for which we advocate. The power of a values-based approach is that it requires us to reflect on what animates our lives and work. Values are anchoring and aspirational; they hold us accountable to what is most important and empower us toward the selves and communities we most want to be. In reflecting on our values, we also recognize the degree to which we fall short of them. We are, in a sense, always on our way toward our core values even as they also shape the ways we live and work together.
In The Price of the Ticket, James Baldwin references a song in which this powerful line appears:
I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do. 1
Identifying our core values as a College is only the beginning of a longer- term commitment. However difficult those initial values conversations have been, or however inspirational and empowering, the more difficult challenge is for us to live them through the initiatives we undertake. In order to do that, we must hold each other accountable to the values we’ve identified, cleaving close to them as we weave our commitments to one another into the communities about which we care so deeply.
In our 2018 Deans Report: Resilience, we sought to tell the stories of how we are living our values. The video on the Culture of Care captures some of the progress we have made and points to the importance of the work ahead.
Dear College of Arts & Letters Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and Friends,
For generations, the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University have demonstrated the capacity to be resilient in the face of adversity.
This resilience is the theme of our 2018 Dean’s Report.
I invite you to explore the Dean’s Report, a digital experience that showcases six extraordinary stories of determination, courage, and elasticity of mind that are creating a more just and meaningful world.
Christopher P. Long
Dean, College of Arts & Letters
“Practicing Public Scholarship.” Public Philosophy Journal 1, no. 1 (2018). https://doi.org/10.25335/m5/ppj.1.1-1.
Situating the Public Philosophy Journal at the intersection of philosophy and questions of public concern, this essay articulates how the journal hopes to practice public scholarship through a formative review process designed to create communities capable of enriching public life.
This is the inaugural essay in the inaugural issue of the Public Philosophy Journal.
The intellectual and ethical habits we need to transform higher education are the same as those we need to cultivate in our students if they are to thrive in the dynamic, interconnected world into which they will graduate.
To cultivate these intellectual and ethical habits in our students, however, we need to learn and embody them ourselves. Here again, I emphasize the central importance of a commitment to performative consistency that has shaped my scholarship and administrative life for years.
Performative consistency involves enacting the values for which we advocate.
I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.
To live up to this insistence on performative consistency requires intentional practice, humility, and vulnerability — characteristics not usually associated with the culture of higher education.
But this culture must change.
Our attempts to elevate and champion the central importance general education and the liberal arts must themselves be animated by intellectual and ethical habits that enable us to put our freedom into practice in ways that enrich the world.
To speak of the “arts of liberty” is to recognize that freedom is an activity that can be practiced well or badly.2 When practiced well, freedom expands, enriching the life of the community in which its members are empowered to live intentional, fulfilling lives. When practice poorly, freedom contracts, impoverishing our relationships with one another, and tearing the fabric of community.
In the presentation, I identify three core habits of the arts of liberty that enable us to practice freedom well.
In her forthcoming book, Generous Thinking,3 Kathleen Fitzpatrick speaks about the need to cultivate a “listening presence” and “critical humility” in ways that resonate with and deepen the account of the core habits of the arts of liberty that might enable us to educate and become more ethically imaginative citizens.
In her 2018 keynote address to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Nancy Cantor enjoins us to re-imagine the future “with an eye toward cultivating empathetic citizenship.”4 She convincingly argues that we in higher education must create spaces for students and scholars to engage in democratic dialogue with a broader public so that we might shape the public good.
Empathy, however, is a necessary but insufficient condition for ethical imagination. Empathy involves the ability to share the feelings of another, but ethical imagination is a cultivated habit of character capable of imagining new possibilities for more just relationships based upon empathy, a “listening presence,” and “critical humility.”
These are the habits a new general education curriculum must embody, and they are the habits we ourselves must learn to put into intentional practice everyday in every encounter we have.
In her recent article in the Journal of Family Violence, Amy Bonomi, Chair of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University, insists that sexual assault and relationship violence cannot be effectively redressed until we undertake serious and systematic anti-bias education and training.1
Drawing on Emily Rothman’s Preventing Sexual Violence on Campus in the U.S.: Four Thought Experiments,2 which challenges us to recognize and dismantle the institutional structures of oppression that enable sexual violence, Bonomi argues that a broader human rights approach to cultural change on campus is required. She writes:
To become dedicated fighters for civil and human rights requires us, in an initial step, to get serious about anti-bias curricula aimed at reducing sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism and classism.
As many of us here at Michigan State University have emphasized, sexual assault and relationship violence is a symptom of a broader cultural problem concerning how power is deployed across the system of higher education and more broadly in society at large.
The power of the approach for which Bonomi advocates lies in the way it focuses insistent attention on redressing institutional structures of inequity. Further, in emphasizing the importance of anti-bias training, she recognizes that our habits of decision making and the shape of our interpersonal interactions will need to change if we are to put the values of accountability, equity, and integrity we most urgently need into practice.
By tying our efforts to establish practices of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a matter of institutional habit to the urgent imperative to redress sexual misconduct and relationship violence, we will be better able to effect the deeper cultural change we need if we are to live up to our expectations to create an educational community that is transparent, open, trusting, and safe.
In the introduction to volume 65, issues 3-4 of the Journal for General Education, I draw on insights from Cathy Davidson’s book, The New Education, to argue for a New General Education, one that is more holistic and responsive to the complex, interconnected world into which our students are graduating.
The article is openly accessible, and I have uploaded it to the CORE repository on Humanities Commons: The Liberal Arts Endeavor: A New General Education.
Welcome to the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University!
As you embark on your educational journey here at MSU, I invite you to consider the doors that are opening for you all across campus. Each door offers an opportunity, as daunting as it is exciting, to establish meaningful connections, discover new ideas, and develop relationships that will shape the course of your life.
Every door has a threshold, a transitional space through which you pass as you move from one place into another. As you leave home and arrive on campus, you move through a liminal space — a transition between who you have been and who you will become.
Such transitions are often fraught with uncertainty and the anxiety that comes with it, but thresholds are also spaces of possibility; they open you to unanticipated experiences that will transform the way you think and shape the life you choose. In moments of uncertainty, it is natural to grasp for what is stable and familiar; but embracing the full range of possibilities that are open to you at MSU will require a certain courage, a willingness to reach out to what is unfamiliar so you might discover new ideas, encounter new cultures, and imagine more just ways of living together.
We here at MSU are living through an important period of transition, so your arrival on campus could not come at a more opportune moment. We need your energy, creativity, and commitment as we work together to set new standards of accountability and trust with one another, creating a more caring and inclusive community for all.
Over the threshold of the east entrance of Linton Hall on the sacred circle of Michigan State University — the oldest academic building on campus and the home of the College of Arts & Letters — is a beautiful wooden seal of the Michigan Agriculture College. It points to the deep history of this land-grant university, our commitment to the liberal and practical arts, and the transition that is at the very heart of the education you will receive here.
The faculty, staff, and students in the College of Arts & Letters are here to provide you with the skills you will need to thrive in the information-rich, dynamic, and deeply interconnected world into which you will graduate. We invite you to visit the Excel Network on the second floor of Linton Hall, just up the stairs from that east entrance, where you will find career communities designed to prepare you to succeed academically while gaining experience with high-impact learning opportunities such as study abroad, undergraduate research, and internships.
There too you will find the Citizen Scholars program, where you will be challenged to put your values into practice in ways that enrich a world in need of your creativity and imagination. Aspiring to be a Citizen Scholar will give you access to a dedicated group of professional advisors and peer mentors who will enrich your education, help you identify goals, and guide you on your way toward a meaningful career within the context of a fulfilling life.
And as you cross the threshold into classrooms across campus, you will encounter a faculty committed to the transformative power of education to open new possibilities for you and to deepen your understanding of our complex and beautiful world.
So as you cross the thresholds of all the doors that will open to you across campus, take courage and know that a dedicated community of Spartans is here to help you along your way.
WASHINGTON, DC – Today a group of colleagues from the Association of American Universities, Association of Research Libraries, and Association of University Presses met to advance the Towards an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME) initiative. It was heartening to see the progress the initiative has made since our first gathering in the summer of 2016. At the time, I was enthusiastic about the effort to leverage University funding to support the open access publication of monographs by scholars in the humanities and social sciences. What I wrote then about the importance of this initiative, I feel more urgently today:
Publishing is one important way the humanities are put into practice. Ideas only enter the public realm when they are made public — that is, when they are published. But publishing is not simply a matter of making ideas public; it is also an opportunity to create publics, to establish relationships around shared values and ideas, and by extension, to transform existing realities in light of new possibilities opened by novel ways of thinking.
This commitment to make ideas public so as to enrich public life remains at the heart of the TOME endeavor. Today, a committed group of publishers, librarians, scholars, and administrators gathered to discuss how to strategically advance the initiative in months and years to come.
The most exciting development over the past year has been the publication of Open Access monographs, which we are curating through our referetory 1 using Figshare. The TOME Referetory will grow considerably over the next year as more monographs are added, while Figshare will enable us to track usage of the texts across the web.
Over the course of the day I tried to capture some of the wide ranging conversation on my microblog (cplong.net) using the TOME tag, but the texture of the conversation was too rich to convey adequately. Here, however, before the day is out, I’d like to capture two ideas that might shape the way forward.
Much of our attention as we’ve developed this initiative as been focused on questions concerning infrastructure, standards, and the logistics associated with cultivating an ecosystem of open access long-form digital scholarship. And rightly so, for focusing on these issues of long-term sustainability, growth, and broad adoption will enable us to create the conditions under which such substantive contributions to the scholarly record can thrive and last.
However, the initiative has benefited greatly from a tendency to try things, by a willingness to do something based on the support of fourteen committed universities and a substantive and growing number of Association of University Presses. Without having it all quite figured out, we pressed forward to publish the work.
This tendency to act has served us well; for by publishing books, we are learning what works and what does not. That this can be a successful strategy was reinforced today by a story Frank Smith, Director, Books at JSTOR, told about JSTOR’s experiment with publishing OA monographs. Frank said, as Greg Britton tweeted:
@JSTOR has nearly 3,000 #OpenAccess books that have gotten over 6.5 million views. 18x the usage of other books on their site.
This is striking evidence for the value of open access monographs. Simply put, open access monographs are more widely read. If scholars want to be read as opposed to simply being published, we need to advocate for Open Access; we need to find ways to make our work broadly available online and to support initiative that make that accessibility sustainable. Real traction for initiatives like TOME will remain elusive until scholars across the globe insist that their work be openly accessible.
Even if, as Dean Smith, Director of Cornell University Press, put it: “Everything about ebooks is messy,” we can’t afford to wait until it is less messy to act.
If, however, our attempts to create an ecosystem for OA monographs is to have a deeper impact on the practices of scholarship, scholars will need to more proactively consider the affordances digital modes of publishing offer us to make our ideas public in innovative ways. This is a question, I have argued, of performative consistency; and it returns us to the deeply reciprocal relationship between form and content. My own failed attempt to create a living, interactive digital book notwithstanding, scholars in the humanities and social sciences ought to focus intellectual attention and effort on considering how the manner in which our ideas make their way into the public domain might amplify, reinforce, and deepen a reader’s engagement with the arguments we make.
If it is successful, the TOME initiative will create an ecosystem in which richly developed ideas can be made openly accessible. How those ideas are engaged by other scholars, how they are taken up, responded to, criticized and built upon in order to transform the world in which we live will depend upon the creative imagination and generosity of our colleagues. We inhabit now a new, more dynamic, world of public ideas–whether they enrich or impoverish our lives together will depend largely upon our ability to cultivate new habits of public scholarship rooted a commitment to the humanistic sensibilities capable of creating a more just and beautiful world.
The second Radical Open Access conference was held on June 26-7, 2018 at Coventry University on the “Ethics of Care.” I participated from a distance via Skype, delivering a tweet storm style presentation based on a 3000 word essay entitled “Toxicity, Metrics, and Academic Life” that was published by Meson Press as a pamphlet posted to the CORE repository on Humanities Commons.
Here is the Twitter Moment I curated from the presentation:
The 2018 Association of Departments of Foreign Languages Summer Session North was hosted by the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University May 30-June 2, 2018. I was invited to participate on a plenary panel and to hold a workshop on the HuMetricsHSS initiative. Plenary III: International Digital and Public Humanities Presider: Sangeetha Gopalakrishnan, Wayne State University Speakers:
In my ongoing attempts to perform the values for which I argue, my contribution to the plenary panel was offered in the form of a tweet storm. The idea is that a presentation on international public digital humanities should itself be international, public, and digital. Because Twitter is a broadly public platform, it allows for a wide dissemination of ideas beyond those present at the conference. Moreover, providing the content in the form of tweets invites colleagues to engage directly with the ideas developed in the presentation itself. In this case, I sought to demonstrate the value of collegiality by amplifying and celebrating the excellent scholarship of my colleagues in the College of Arts & Letters and of my co-PIs on the HuMetricsHSS grant.
In experimenting with the platform, it turns out that the tweets appear most elegantly here on a WordPress site and are more easily preserved for posterity by curating them as a Twitter Moment.
So here is the tweet storm captured as a Twitter Moment; I invite you to engage with the ideas presented here either with comments below or on Twitter.
Dear College of Arts & Letters alumni and friends,
By now many of you have heard that the university has agreed in principle to a $500 million global settlement with the survivors of the sexual abuse committed by former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar.
This important moment of accountability comes at the end of a difficult semester in which we have embarked upon a process of critical self-reflection that will enable us to live up to our commitments to one another as members of the MSU community.
Students, faculty, and staff here in the College of Arts & Letters are reviewing and revising the policies and procedures that shape the lives of our departments and programs to ensure that they cultivate a culture of trust, accountability, and care. These efforts have included academic leaders from across colleges coming together to have regular and candid discussions about how to effect positive change in MSU’s culture. We have held town hall meetings, student-centered roundtables, and department reflection days on mentoring, advising, and pedagogies. On April 19, we hosted Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, through the Transformative Justice Series led by Xhercis Mendez. More than 1,400 heard her speak about sexual abuse and empowerment through empathy.
In our April 2018 College of Arts & Letters Alumni Board meeting, we shared our sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, and our deep commitment to undertake the difficult work ahead of us with integrity and urgency.
When we commit ourselves in our daily interactions with one another to being more vulnerable and more genuine, we nourish the roots of a culture of trust. If we as a College and University are not significantly different in the wake of what we are learning about ourselves and our institution, we will have failed to do justice to the truth the survivors have spoken.
This will be a long journey; it will take courage and patience and time. As we embark upon it together, I would ask each of you to consider how you might contribute to advancing cultural change at MSU. To that end, I invite you to offer your ideas about how we as a College and institution can better live up to the values for which we advocate, as your voices, actions, and support are critical to building a culture of accountability. Please send your thoughts to Christine Radtke, Senior Director of Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517.353.4725. Christine and I look forward to your input and further conversations as we continue to create the university we expect ourselves to be.
Christopher P. Long
Dean of the College of Arts & Letters
The Academy for Teaching and Learning at Baylor University invited me to give two talks on the value of creating and nurturing online digital scholarly communities on April 19, 2018. The two presentations afforded me an opportunity to consider the role online scholarly communities might play in helping us address broader cultural challenges we are facing in higher education.
April 19 | 10:30-11:30am | Jones Library 200
My visit to Baylor occurred during a very difficult period of trauma at Michigan State University in the wake of institutional and cultural failures associated with sexual abuse on campus. Being at Baylor and having lived through the abuse scandal at Penn State, the broader cultural issues to which we in higher education need to come to terms was very much on my mind. As a result, you will hear in this presentation the struggle associated with aligning values with practices. As I discuss ways to embody and cultivate digital communities of scholarship, I emphasize the importance of candor, vulnerability, and accountability as core principles of academic culture that need to be advocated for and embodied.
April 19 | 3:30-4:30pm | Marrs McLean Science 101
This presentation was given in the form of a Tweet storm in order to perform the open scholarship for which the presentation argues. In it I address some the broader questions of how we might cultivate more supportive cultures of scholarship in higher education. This was my first experiment with a Tweet storm presentation. The format is designed to invite a broader conversation on the questions raised in the presentation. By posting the material here, I hope to open another space for discussion about the issues raised in the presentation.
It has been difficult to write for the public in the months since posting the Open Letter to the College of Arts & Letters in the wake of the survivor impact statements that are transforming Michigan State University.1 Part of the difficulty is what my thoughtful #SpartanDean colleague, Prabu David, emphasized when he wrote that it is challenging to find the right words for our current situation. But also, it has been difficult to convey to a broader public the intense interpersonal work we are doing in the College to create the culture change we need.
At our Fall 2017 faculty meeting, we focused on attentive listening, critical discernment, and ethical imagination as the core habits of the liberal arts education we seek to weave into the fabric of the University. Over the last few months, we have sought to put these habits into more intentional practice as we begin to imagine a way forward in response to what has happened here at Michigan State.
The commitments my Dean colleagues made to one another in our January 2018 letter to the Board of Trustees articulates the values that must shape this response. We said we would …
“foster and protect a culture that is transparent, open, trusting, and safe;”
“continuously cultivate leadership through caring and accountability;”
“empower everyone to be fully engaged in a community that is inclusive and equitable.”
These are the values I have always sought to put into practice as an academic leader. Yet, in reflecting upon what has happened here and during my time as a faculty member and administrator at Penn State, I am more aware than ever of the chasm that exists between the commitments for which we stand and the reality we experience. Where the culture of higher education should be caring, accountable, and equitable, it is too often self-centered, domineering, and unjust. And worse, the mechanisms by which we measure and reward individuals and institutions too often reinforce a toxic culture that erodes trust and impoverishes our work together.
This must change, and enacting that change is the long and difficult work ahead.
That work begins with critical self-reflection and ethical candor. It takes time and requires us to resist the temptation to put the difficult truths we are facing behind us. If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize in the trauma of the moment the unsettling of unjust and inequitable structures that must be interrogated and redressed.
This requires each of us who has some power to effect change — whether you are a student or a member of the staff, a professor, an alum, or an administrator — to put your effort, your influence, and your weight on the side of creating a more trusting and just academic community.
“…it won’t matter how good we are here at MSU, if you are not willing and able to use your position, privilege, and power to make a difference for others as well.
These connections represent our better selves — when we acknowledge them, we are more vulnerable, uncertain, unsure.
More importantly, though, we are more authentic, genuine, and real.”
When we commit ourselves in our daily interactions with one another to being more vulnerable and more genuine, we nourish the roots of a culture of trust.
Over the past few months, I have seen a commitment to candor break calcified habits of distrust in a program meeting; I have heard our staff speak honestly about the corrosive effects of micro-aggression and implicit bias; I have witnessed a group of angry and disappointed alumni support one another and refocus their attention on the core academic mission of the University; I have admired the courage of our undergraduate and graduate students as they advocate for the just community they expect and deserve; and I have felt my own willingness to acknowledge failure open new possibilities for more trusting relationships with my colleagues.
This is the work we must now undertake if we are to cultivate a culture of trust at the heart of our academic community. Let practices of care, accountability, and equity empower us to use our position and privilege to support our colleagues — students, staff, faculty, and alumni — in their efforts to make meaningful contributions to this fragile and broken world.