Engagement, Resistance, and Student Learning
The current double issue of On Campus with Women examines how student
resistance to new ideas, perspectives, or people is an expected dimension
of intellectual development that actually offers educators an opportunity
to deepen student learning. Several pieces discuss how to engage resistance
in productive ways. However, sometimes resistance, especially in a classroom
setting, falls disproportionately upon the newly represented faculty,
testing their authority and calling for larger institutional policies
and cultural shifts.
For many college instructors, particularly women faculty, faculty of
color, and gay and lesbian faculty, the issue of resistance is a familiar
one, sometimes because of what and how they teach and other times because
of who they are. Intellectual development theory demonstrates that cognitive
development is enhanced by disequilibrium; that is, by introducing ideas
that disrupt a given understanding. But educating in the midst of that
transition can be a challenge. Happily there are multiple strategies
upon which to draw. This issue of OCWW includes two feature articles
by authors who approach resistance from different perspectives.
The piece by Ximena Zúñiga and Jane Mildred interprets
resistance as a site of possible engagement, a way to "address
conflicts and concerns and create movement in the classroom."
As such, they draw on social justice, feminist, and diversity literature
to provide several pedagogical strategies for teaching through and across
resistance, understanding that safety, structure, and respect are key
elements for any successful classroom. Zúñiga and Mildred
acknowledge the difficulty professors face in teaching subjects relating
to gender, race, class, and sexuality. They call on faculty members
to support and learn from each other in response to the challenges they
all face in the classroom.
NiCole Buchanan and Tamara Bruce's piece is a more personal description
of what it means, as women faculty and faculty of color, to face resistance
not only because of the subject matter taught, but also because of the
instructor's identity. Their article focuses what they call contrapower
harassment--"harassment of those with more organizational
power by those with less." Drawing from research on discrimination
to demonstrate how commonplace and multifaceted contrapower harassment
is, they offer teaching evaluations as one example where the chilling
effects of this less-recognized form of harassment can occur. Unfortunately,
contrapower harassment may exacerbate a culture that is already unwelcoming
to diverse faculty.
National Initiative for Women in Higher Education
Gwen Dungy, Executive Director of NASPA and a member of the NIWHE Advisory
Board, moves us out of the classroom into the larger campus arena where
conflict is even more normative. Using the contentions that erupted
at Duke University when a student group sponsored the Palestinian Student
Movement conference (please double check the group's name), Dungy
describes how student affairs' pedagogy led to proactive efforts
to engage students in difficult dialogues despite deep mutual resistance
and distrust. Dungy describes how respect and open communication are
essential to working successfully at such moments.
In her article, Judith White, the chair of NIWHE, formally introduces
the new nomenclature and focus for NIWHE: Campus Women LEAD (CWL), which
is housed in AAC&U's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global
Initiatives. White describes CWL as "dedicated to honoring, strengthening,
and mobilizing the leadership of women in support of inclusive excellence
and the New Academy." She goes on to provide background on CWL's
ongoing work, outlines the four primary challenges it faces, and defines
the four areas CWL's steering committee has deemed most necessary
for strengthening women's leadership.
for working with resistance include affirming the students'
right to resist, slowing the pace when discussion escalates
into attack-defend behavior, changing the session plan to
incorporate students' views and concerns, and making use of
the resistance to illustrate course content or promote insight."
Ximena Zúñiga and Jane Mildred
In this issue of OCWW, two sets of authors explore
the topic of resistance and contrapower harassment in college
classrooms. The authors draw on scholarly literature and their
own experiences in order to provide unique and nuanced interpretations
of this issue.
The current Global Perspective calls for a new construction
of globalization that focuses on its potential for serving
as a vehicle of change and social justice and increasing the
communication and dissemination of ideas and technologies.
According to Hauwa Ibrahim, this re-definition would help
to "establish an international ethos of shared values
and principles of social justice."