(Some of) What I learned at Worldviews

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ryan Saxby Hill
Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Our good friends at the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations organized a great series of discussions at the first annual Worldviews Conference on the Media and Higher Education. There were some great conversations about how the media and higher education interact, and how perhaps we could do more to improve that relationship. There was far too much going on over the three days for a one-post blog summary, but here are a few links and things that I found particularly interesting.

There is a (somewhat) vibrant specialist media concerned with higher education – Although it’s less likely that your city’s daily paper has a higher education reporter these days (or a beat reporter for anything for that matter), there is a niche media that covers topics of interest to the sector that can be an important source of news and information. Times Higher Education and the Chronicle of Higher Ed are prime examples, but new online outlets such as University World News and Inside Higher Ed are now also go-to sources for post-secondary education news and analysis.

Universities are starting to bypass traditional media outlets – Social media and online systems are creating more and more ways for universities to self-publish their work. There were a few high profile examples at the conference including (a site run by American universities that posts news releases directly to a news site) and The Conversation (a site that provides news and analysis directly from Australian academics). We’re also pretty proud of Experience Congress this year – our annual attempt to make sure even the Congress stories that the media don’t want get some press.

Scholars aren’t always public intellectuals (but should they be?) – There was an interesting debate at a session featuring Bill Ayers that highlighted some of the arguments around scholars and their responsibilities to contribute to public discourse. Ayers argued that there is a responsibility that comes with being in the academy and one must consider it a responsibility to critique, comment and debate whenever possible. Others on the panel argued that part of academic freedom was the freedom not to engage in public debate. One of the more interesting points of the session came from Joel Westhelmer from the University of Ottawa, who pointed to the importance of teachers participating in public debate so that they can model this behaviour for students.

Thanks to the organizers of Worldviews!