The Committee on Academic Citizenship: An Initiative of The College Music Society

October 1, 2009



The College Music Society’s initiative on Academic Citizenship—the final piece in the Society’s larger initiative on Career Services—was unveiled at the Salt Lake City annual meeting on November 15, 2007. A three-member working group (Anne Patterson, Chair, Fairmont State University; David Montano, University of Denver; John Winn, Eastern Oregon University) launched the Committee’s work. The Academic Citizenship initiative overlaps, and draws together, the other Career Services components, perhaps most clearly with Administration/Leadership and Mentoring, and it is closely linked with Engagement and Outreach. The presentation marked the culmination of several months of deliberation by the working group as well as the introduction of the initiative to the membership.

Committee Chair Anne Patterson provided the framework for the membership’s consideration of Academic Citizenship. Excerpts from her comments follow.


The Quest for Community: Academic Citizenship in the “New Academy”

Over the years, The College Music Society has addressed, and continues to address, a number of issues important to our profession, including mentoring, career development, outreach, engagement, entrepreneurship, and more.

Now the Society turns its attention to the broader context: the academy itself, our place in it, our obligations to it, and its relationship to our civic communities. What makes a person not only a good instructor in the realm of his/her expertise, but a good citizen of the university? We believe that, embedded in the identity of each music unit, is the capacity to think beyond the individual, to contribute knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to the crucial work of the entire academy. We have chosen to call this relationship between faculty members and administrators and their institutions ACADEMIC CITIZENSHIP.

The mission of the Committee on Academic Citizenship is

  • to explore the characteristics of “the new academy” and effects of changing expectations on our traditional roles;
  • to provide a forum for examining expanded roles and responsibilities of faculty members and administrators, as collaborative participants in an endeavor dedicated to serving the common good; and
  • to initiate cross-disciplinary discussions on academic responsibility and civility as extensions of academic freedom.

For the purposes of this new, Society-wide discussion it is important to know what Academic Citizenship is not. In the present context, it is not any of the following, many of which we may find in a Google search of the term. It is not

  • another name for university service;
  • something expected only of students;
  • something expected only of administrators or faculty members;
  • another name for the honor code;
  • a synonym for tenure;
  • a record of service in the community by academics.

Rather, Academic Citizenship is described by the committee’s working document as follows:

Responsible Academic Citizenship demands engaged, collegial, civil, collaborative participation in the full life of the college/conservatory/university; an awareness of the institution’s strategic goals and active contribution to their achievement; and a willingness to integrate meaningfully the demands of our discipline with the needs and expectations of our students and of the civic community.


Historical Context

A few brief historical notes will give context to the “New Academy” mentioned in the title of our session—and perhaps remind us that the past often illuminates the present. Plato established an “Academy” in 385 B.C., just outside of Athens. It lasted, in one form or another through periods now labeled Old, Middle, and New, for about 900 years, until the Emperor Justinian closed it and other “pagan” institutions in 529 A.D. Whereas the Old Academy’s scholars searched for absolute truth, New-Academy thinking was characterized by skepticism. It is described this way in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “The New Academy teaching represents the spirit of an age when religion was decaying, and philosophy itself, losing its earnest and serious spirit, was becoming merely a vehicle for rhetoric and dialectical ingenuity.”1 It reflected, in other words, a time of change, of questioning the old values.

We have our own “classical,” or “old,” academy where things are, as it were, the way they used to be. In the storied “community of teachers and scholars” of the not too distant past, fantastic lectures were enough; students were homogeneous (or treated as if they were); there was one recognized learning style (the style that responded to reading assignments, writing, and lectures), and technology consisted in large part of a piece of chalk and a board. Many of us cling to this model, resisting the inevitable. But others note the sweeping changes in higher education and have begun to refer to the university we now inhabit as “the new academy.” In broad terms, we may think of our “new academy” as characterized by enormous change and heightened expectations on everyone’s part, and by the increasing tensions that inevitably accompany both.

Carole Barone, writing for EDUCAUSE, describes five characteristics that “separate the new academy from the traditional paradigm of higher education:

  • The interplay of culture and technology (the socio-technological context);
  • A multidimensional framework for action;
  • New cultural values;
  • A new style of leadership;
  • The relationship of learning to space.”2

We find this modern-era academy of which we are a part described or alluded to with increasing frequency, and in a variety of tones. The literature on higher education is clear about trends of which we must be aware and to which we must be prepared to respond and adapt. Three selected examples, described briefly below, are illustrative.

The Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, using recent research as a basis, published its list of the top ten policy issues in higher education, in anticipation of academic year 2007-2008:

  • Price of tuition
  • Student aid policy
  • Access and success
  • Accountability and student learning
  • Consumer information
  • Responsibilities for nonprofit governance
  • Tax policy
  • Scientific research
  • America’s competitiveness
  • Educational goals, PK-203

The second example is Werner Hirsch and Luc Weber’s book, Challenges Facing Higher Education at the Millennium, a collection of essays following an international colloquium convened in Glion, Switzerland, in 1998. The book’s several authors illuminate many issues facing us in the present era, including an emphasis on “learner centered” environments and outcomes; an emphasis on the capacity to adapt rapidly, perceptively, and flexibly to society’s needs; and more reliance upon information/learning/teaching technology at the same time we examine our pedagogy.

David Gardner’s contribution to Hirsch and Weber’s book, an essay entitled “Meeting the Challenges of the New Millennium: The University’s Role,”4 speaks to the issue of Academic Citizenship, without directly calling it that. He suggests that many of the challenges that face us originate, not somewhere outside of the academy, but among ourselves—a sort of Pogo-like observation that “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” There is, Gardner says, a “growing perception by state legislators and members of the U.S. Congress that universities are indistinguishable from other special interest groups seeking access to the public purse.”5 The public, believing that we have betrayed the social contract between institutions of higher education and the citizenry, shares the legislative viewpoint, Gardner says, observing that “the public is not amused.”6

For the third and final example, I want to return to Carole Barone’s comments on the new academy in EDUCAUSE. She launches her article, appropriately titled “The New Academy,” this way: “Something is happening to the academy—outside the consciousness of the majority of its members. A new academy is forming that

  • acknowledges the changes manifested in the Net Generation;7
  • uses the power of technology to enable deeper learning;
  • demonstrates the interplay of culture and technology; and
  • changes the nature of interaction among the members.”8 (Emphasis added.)

The too-frequently dysfunctional nature of the interaction among its members (there is plenty of literature and press describing that) intrudes upon and sullies what might be a fulfilling, even noble enterprise: educating our citizens and helping them learn how to continue to educate themselves. It also gives rise to this discussion of Academic Citizenship. No longer are we able to keep our heads down and “just do our jobs” as we have understood them in the past. Our jobs have changed. They are public; we are in the public eye, and we are expected to contribute to the betterment of our society in demonstrable ways.

We know that there are institutions where relations among the employees are not ideal. To bring this discussion home, despite the fact that music units are ideally suited to demonstrate the salutary effects of respectful cooperation and collaboration, we are aware of some departments of music in which the theorists don’t speak to the educators, the historians converse only among themselves, and the performers commune solely with the angels.

In examining Academic Citizenship, we want to move beyond the limited discussions, beyond the problems that we always seem to identify in national gatherings. We know what many of the problems are. We want to abandon, for the moment, yet another discussion of the failings of our administrators, of unsatisfactory working conditions, unmotivated or immature students, and irritating colleagues. The Society’s leadership believes that it is important that we refocus on professional life styles and behaviors that produce meaningful collaborations and positive relationships, processes, and outcomes, using as models those institutions—and we believe that there must be some—where people are relatively happy and the processes are functional and productive. We would like to refocus on the fact that education serves the common good as much as enhances individual opportunity, if not, in fact, more. (End of Chair’s introductory remarks.)



David Montano’s thoughtful comments on the engaged university (see his essay, “Academic Citizenship and Schools of Music in Twenty-First-Century ‘Engaged’ Universities Dedicated to the Public Good”) led into discussion.

Three discussion prompts were used:

  • What do faculty members and administrators need to know and do in order to participate fully and responsibly in the academic community?
  • Why should we be concerned with anything beyond our own disciplines?
  • What makes well-functioning units “tick”? What makes successful, connected faculty members effective proponents of good academic citizenship, even if their units, as a whole, do not function ideally? What good practices improve the academic community for everyone?

Attendees adhered to the Chair’s stipulations that observations should be positive and that they should reach beyond the usual litany of job tasks; that discussants should think beyond the confines of our own sub-disciplines; and that examples of good practices that improved relations within the university should be shared.

Not surprisingly, because this is a new initiative, discussion centered first on the distinction between Academic Citizenship and Engagement/Outreach. Briefly, the difference is that, while acts of Engagement and Outreach occur between members of an academic community and the civic community, good Academic Citizenship thrives among the members of the academic community itself.

Participants noted that change is simply a “fact of life,” and not necessarily an “attack on the status quo.” They expressed a willingness—eagerness, even—to dispense with the “us against them” attitude so prevalent on many campuses. Regardless of who “we” and “they” are, working at cross purposes makes it difficult to serve a greater good. Some noted that we are not always good at working together across sub-disciplines within our own departments, let alone across different disciplines. Our students, they said, could benefit from observing good professional interaction.

Universities and colleges are probably more alike than different in their descriptions and missions, and they are clearly subject to the same challenges. If the response of attendees is indicative, this is a good time for academic communities to come together, to project our best selves. Academic Citizenship is an idea whose time has come.



“Academy.” <>;. Accessed October 11, 2009.

Barone, Carole. “The New Academy.” EDUCAUSE < NewAcademy/6068>. Accessed October 12, 2009.

Gardner, David P. “Meeting the Challenges of the New Millennium: The University’s Role.” In Challenges Facing Higher Education at the Millennium, ed. Werner Z. Hirsch and Luc E. Weber, 18-25. Phoenix, AZ: American Council on Education and Oryx Press, 1999.

“Higher Education Issues.” < issues.html>. Accessed November 5, 2009.

Hirsch, Werner Z., and Luc E. Weber, eds. Challenges Facing Higher Education at the Millennium. Phoenix, AZ: American Council on Education and Oryx Press, 1999.

Rosen, Larry. “Net generation comes of age.” < tion-comes-of-age/2008-1022_3-6195553.html?tag=mncol>. Accessed July 9, 2007.




2Barone, “The New Academy.”

3This list, along with those of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Education Association, may be found at

4Gardner, “Meeting the Challenges.”

5Ibid., 22.


7The “Net Generation” is defined various ways, but always refers to the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s. Larry Rosen (“Net generation”) notes, “. . . [T]his is a generation of kids, children, teens, and young adults who have known no other world than that with complete technology, Internet, text messaging, cell phones, and video games, etc.”

8Barone, “The New Academy.”

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