Academic Affairs: Higher Education in Popular Culture

This is the start of a blog I’ll be doing for the GC Advocate.  I’ll cross-post the articles that get posted there:


Wel­come to “Aca­d­e­mic Affairs.” I am start­ing this blog with a sim­ple idea in mind: the sto­ries that we tell about aca­d­e­mic life can shape and influ­ence the way that all of us (aca­d­e­mics and non-academics alike) think about the place of higher edu­ca­tion in our soci­ety. Here at The GC Advo­cate we already have great reportage on some of the most press­ing issues in higher edu­ca­tion. In the past two months we’ve had arti­cles about the ongo­ing strug­gle to pre­serve pub­lic edu­ca­tion here in the CUNY sys­tem, arti­cles about the teach­ing job mar­ket for PhD’s through­out the nation, and cov­er­age of the recent stu­dent strikes in Puerto Rico, just to name a few exam­ples. I’d like to come at the topic of higher edu­ca­tion from a dif­fer­ent angle. I believe that those of us with a vested inter­est in higher edu­ca­tion have to make the case for its impor­tance by telling com­pelling sto­ries about what the acad­emy means to us and what place we think the acad­emy should have in a plu­ral­is­tic, demo­c­ra­tic society.

This is an out­growth of my dis­ser­ta­tion project, which is on aca­d­e­mic nov­els. Now I’ll be the first to admit that this sounds rather nar­cis­sis­tic and elit­ist. It is per­fectly rea­son­able to assume that aca­d­e­mic fic­tion is only about the insu­lar, closed world of ivory tower aca­d­e­mic life. And yes, there are many nov­els in the genre that amount to lit­tle more than bour­geois come­dies of man­ners set in uni­ver­si­ties, and who gives a flip about that? How­ever, there are also aca­d­e­mic nov­els that look beyond this enclosed world of the uni­ver­sity, and I am most inter­ested in the nov­els (and films) that draw con­nec­tions between the uni­ver­sity and the world beyond it. In the May 2010 issue I shared my Top 10 list of aca­d­e­mic films. I’ll be con­tin­u­ing with that theme by writ­ing short arti­cles about some recent films and nov­els that depict aca­d­e­mic life, while also revis­it­ing some older works that I think are still rel­e­vant to things that are hap­pen­ing now.

I hope you will enjoy this col­umn and I hope that you will be encour­aged to chime in and share your own ideas and make this a col­lab­o­ra­tive project.

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