Academic Freedom in Action: The Center for Public Scholarship

The New School has never quite fit the mold of an academic ivory tower., The university’s faculty and students have always been aware of the connection between scholarship and society. One is just as likely to find a member of the New School community teaching literature in a prison or working with a community group in Uganda as holed up in a study carrel.

Inspired by the university’s culture of civic engagement, Arien Mack, Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology at The New School for Social Research, has formed the Center for Public Scholarship (CPS). Officially launched in October 2010, CPS is a university-wide initiative that draws on the humanities, social sciences, design, and public policy to foster programs that connect the academy to the public sphere.

From the pacifist professors who founded NSSR, to the establishment of the University in Exile during the rise of fascism, to projects like Endangered Scholars Worldwide, The New School has always been about connecting intellectual discourse to the major issues of the day,, said Mack. CPS is a big step forward for these efforts, signaling a significant recommitment to social engagement.,

CPS’s official mission is to support free inquiry and public discussion by bringing the best scholarship in and outside the academy to bear on the critical and contested issues of our times. Case in point is the center’s inaugural event, From Impunity to Accountability: Africa’s Development in the 21st Century, a two-day conference that examines challenges and opportunities facing African democracy from both academic and political perspectives. The conference, which features a keynote by Tegegnework Gettu, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, takes place at The New School on November 18th and 19th.

CPS already has a solid grounding as an umbrella organization for several existing projects that touch on public scholarship issues: the journal Social Research and its conference series (of which From Impunity to Accountability is a part), the Journal Donation Project, and Endangered Scholars Worldwide all now fall under CPS. In addition, CPS will serve the university’s students and faculty, developing public programs and courses consistent with its mission.

Bridging the gap between academia and the real world, is not the only New School value CPS embraces’the center is also interdisciplinary at core. CPS has a board of directors that includes representatives from Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts, Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy, The New School for General Studies, Parsons The New School for Design, and the university provost’s office. This group will ensure that programming from CPS reflects the diversity of thinking and learning at the university.

There are so many facets to public scholarship. Freedom of speech, access to information, fostering effective critical discourse are just the beginning,, said Mack. The more voices involved in this project, the greater the influence we can have.,

To find out more, go to CPS’s website.