Am I Good at Critical University Studies?

Is activist scholarship like all scholarship: meant to be judged?

I’m wondering because, thanks to my CUNY colleagues, more than ever I feel connected to the activist field of Critical University Studies. Critical University Studies aims to intervene in higher education and to critique neoliberal policies that hurt public colleges and universities.

Critical University Studies is activist. But it’s also becoming an academic subject, with scholars publishing and presenting their takes in traditional scholarly venues like conferences, books, journals.

Is this good for the Critical University Studies? For universities?

On Friday October 20, I presented at a “Critical University Studies’ roundtable with colleagues from The Graduate Center. I’ve written about Critical University Studies before. But this panel offered my colleagues and I the opportunity to unpack the idea and activity of critical university studies from our particular scholarly perspectives and our positions at CUNY.

Co-presenters Siraj Ahmed, Steve Brier, Kandice Chuh, Feisal Mohamed and moderator Eric Lott offered unique insights into Critical University Studies. I have amazing colleagues. They got me thinking about the globalization of universities, about the meaning of critique, about the history of CUNY.

But they also got me thinking about my own take on this field and my own performance on the panel. Did my paper work? Was it any good? Was it critical enough?

Well, it was a little short (I love short and sweet, but, alas, too short and sweet goes sour). It could have used more examples  (I have them, but they are boring). The activity I did needed contextualization (writing activities take time and dead time during talks is awkward). Etc, etc.

What was supposed to be a collaborative, critical, activist panel–and mostly was–morphed into a private evaluation.

Critical University Studies as Critique Upon the Self.

How did that happen?

Because we are trained as scholars and students to measure our success not in connection with others but in opposition to other ideas, positions, people.  And this constant assessment diverts us from the shared goals of Critical University Studies.

Critique is a good reminder of these goals; writing,teaching, activism are good enactments of them.



About Jessica Yood

I am an Associate Professor of English at Lehman College, The City University of New York (CUNY). Composition and Rhetoric is my primary field and research into the history and emerging role of writing in our contemporary culture continues to broaden my definition of this discipline. Work for my book project takes me into the history of literary criticism in America, complexity theories, the culture wars and the intellectual crises of the 1990s, and the enduring complexity of first-year writing and writers.
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