The blog is a special component of Heterodox Academy. HxA launched in Fall 2015 as little more than a blog and a list of names. As our organization has expanded and evolved, the purpose and content of the blog has changed as well.
For instance, there are many other sites where academics can ruminate on the academy (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Times Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, The Conversation, The Guardian Higher Education Network, et al.). Popular new forums have also sprung up in recent years for academic insiders and exiles to toss around ideas that challenge prevailing attitudes within social research fields.
Based on member feedback, data on our readership, and our current strategic priorities we have decided to leverage our network and capabilities in ways that are less redundant with existing outlets– and have adjusted our content strategy accordingly.
Our aspiration is to have every reader walk away from the blog with a richer understanding of the challenges universities face with respect to scholarship, teaching and administration, new insights or intuitions as to how these problems might be overcome, and a deeper conviction to be part of the solution.
Towards this end, we have rolled out new submission guidelines emphasizing the kinds of content we’ll be looking for going forward. In a nutshell: fewer armchair musings on the academy and its problems, and more connections to research on the nature, scope and dynamics of those problems and/or tools and techniques to meaningfully address them.
Of course, many on the core team will continue to write and publish op-ed style pieces for external outlets – and we encourage our members to join us in public advocacy for open inquiry, viewpoint diversity and constructive disagreement.
However, up to now, many of the op-ed style posts published on our blog were oriented towards convincing skeptics about the reality and significance of the problem. Yet by publishing these essays on the HxA blog, contributors were largely “preaching to the choir” — literally the one thing that we all agree on is:
“University life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other. I am concerned that many academic ﬁelds and universities currently lack sufﬁcient viewpoint diversity. I support viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and constructive disagreement in my academic ﬁeld, my institution, my department, and my classroom.”
To the extent that such essays are instead placed in other outlets going forward, they will likely reach a larger and more divided audience — and therefore, have more impact – than if we ran them on the blog.
Those seeking op-ed style content curated by the Heterodox Academy editorial team should also follow us on social media: we will continue using those channels to share compelling editorialized content from external outlets. We will also feature selected essays in the “Recommended Reading” sidebar of the blog and in our weekly member bulletins.
Finally, for many of the same reasons we are moving away from op-ed content on the blog — and in keeping with many other outlets operating in this space (e.g. here, here, here, here, here) – we have also decided to eliminate the comment section under our posts. We encourage our readers to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and to join in the conversation on those forums if they wish to weigh in on a given blog post. All of our original content is shared on all of our social channels — and with roughly 30k heterogenous followers on Twitter and 10k on Facebook – conversations are often very interesting and dynamic.
While we recognize that some preferred the comment section due to its relative anonymity, as an organization it has always been our belief that institutional dynamics will only change when people are willing to publicly stand up against orthodoxies, and censorious trends, and when they lead by public example in their own intellectual communities. This not only has an immediate impact in the moment, it also helps spread awareness, helps create permission for others to stand up, and it helps others — who may have previously viewed underrepresented perspectives in a caricatured fashion — to see actual people espousing reasonable, even important views (i.e. it helps them better understand what they are missing due to the lack of viewpoint diversity).
This is why we are a membership organization, why we publicly list our members on our website, why we don’t allow anonymous membership or anonymous blog posts — and why we have now eliminated anonymous comments as well. Our mission is best served not by creating places for people to anonymously espouse views they would never air in public — but instead by encouraging people to stand up for what they believe in, in a constructive fashion, in the social contexts in which they are embedded.
We understand that not everyone will feel wiling or able to comment in this manner. These are determinations that every individual has to make according to their own conscience and circumstances. But we ultimately concluded that our values and interests were best represented by working to push more robust, constructive and transparent discussion in order to more effectively promote change. And we hope that you’ll join the discussion, be it on social media or by writing on the blog.
For more information on our content strategy, feel free to reach out to Managing Editor Musa al-Gharbi (firstname.lastname@example.org).