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Introduction

  • Dalya Yafa MarkovichEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

In recent years universities have been expected to contribute more to society and to play a broader role in addressing social, political, economic, and environmental changes. Even though this tendency is challenging the role and culture of higher education and the extent and scope of the academia’s responsibility, the process of building relationships with the community is situated in a complex web of power relations. The academy’s modes and patterns of social behavior are part of a broader social and political context as well as of various institutional tensions that traverse its stratified structure. The social-political forces that are shaping the campuses—for-profit entrepreneurial models and activities, information technology, corporate agendas, commercialization of campus, and erosion of authority of the academic profession—are altering the form and role of higher education. These social forces are interconnected with various institutional tensions: particular versus universal research, local versus global audience, and non-engaged versus engaged learning experiences. The community’s knowledge, practices, and social positions represent a fundamental challenge to the “ivory tower’s” scientific and bureaucratic assumptions. Thus, setting the terms that determine the nature of collaboration between the academy and the community is a dynamic process of professional and symbolic boundary formation that is negotiated by multiple parties. The mechanisms of (dis-)collaboration between the academy, the civil society, and the community are shaped by the political atmosphere, which determines the extent and form of the engagement and the social strategies and practices that are legitimate and available for all parties. Collaboration, and the scope, length, and nature of collaboration, is thus produced through these interrelated dimensions, which compose the agency of all actors involved. The academic sphere tended to promote notions that seek to individualize the students and emphasize their personal achievements rather than their contribution to the civic “good”. Faculty members, as well, usually function in a system that discourages them from investing efforts, time, and resources in civic engagements. In most campuses, faculty members are required to submerge themselves in their research and professional promotion, while interventions take place only when it advantages the academy. However, academia’s attitude toward the community has been changing in recent years in response to various activist, social, and political agendas. These institutional transitions have affected the academy: increasing students’ chances for future social engagement; fostering multicultural changes and welcoming diverse institutional environment; contributing to reimagining and reinvigorating democratic mentality; and adding new, ‘Other’, voices, perspectives, and insights to the intellectual process. These efforts have had a multiple impact on the students as well, adding valuable knowledge and broadening students’ worldviews; improving students’ achievements and skills; and strengthening students’ obligation to social activity, and to engagements with disadvantaged groups. Thus, these transformations have caused a lot of changes, both in the students’ and faculty members’ positioning in the academic sphere, and in their goals and interests, forms of interaction, modes of behavior, and the sociocultural repertoires that are available to them. Furthermore, by fostering, promoting, and supporting campus-community engagements, the type and forms of perspectives/knowledge and academic practices have also been changing and sometimes even causing an “epistemological anxiety” that has blurred the traditional division of areas of expertise.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationBeit Berl CollegeKfar SabaIsrael

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