Item description for Academic Life: Hospitality, Ethics, and Spirituality by John B. Bennett & R. Eugene Rice...
In this profound look at the academy, John Bennett reminds us that our leadership decisions always presuppose our philosophies of life and that understanding precedes practice. How we understand the communities we lead informs the many practical judgments we make about directions to take, structures to create, processes to initiate, and values to uphold.
Bennett argues that faculty may understand their departments or institutions in one of two ways: as simply aggregations of individuals or as communities of intertwined persons. From these views, two different leadership values and positions emerge.
The first disposes us toward seeing academic conflict as inevitable and elevates heroic leadership styles where power is understood in terms of advancing one agenda over competitors. The second underwrites leadership as supporting openness to others and emphasizes the vital contributions that can follow.
By providing specific illustrations of the two modes of leadership and the nature of hospitality and openness, Academic Life presents a strong platform from which to build a rich and rewarding academic community.
Contents include: * The nature of insistent individualism * Why the prevalence of insistent individualism? * Hospitality as an essential virtue * Self, others, institutions, and the common good * Conversation as an essential metaphor * The uses of conversation * Community and covenant * Engaged, but not heroic, leadership
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John Bennett is a researcher, writer, and editor specializing in the North and a former editor of the Inuit cultural magazine Inuktitut. Susan Rowley is associate professor of anthropology and sociology and curator of public archaeology, Museum of Anthropology, at the University of British Columbia.
Reviews - What do customers think about Academic Life: Hospitality, Ethics, and Spirituality?
A Better Path Jul 27, 2005
At last a book that tells it like it is in the world of academe, a world described by John Bennett as characterized by "persistent and possessive individualism in which self-promotion and protection become central values." Quite the opposite, in fact of the values suggested by the word "collegium," values such as connectedness, reciprocity, mutual purpose,and community. But, says Bennett, there is an alternative scenario what woul result in enhanced teaching and learning and in greater personal satisfaction for students, faculty, and administrators alike.
For Bennett the better path is grounded in the practice of hospitality. Ub the broadest sense, hospitality connotes welcoming, civility, sensitivity, and communication. Deemed an esssentail virtue, hospitality demands the cultivation of reciprocal relationships between groups and between individuals. We learn in this fine book how institutions and their constituents can become more hopsitable through, for example, altruism, philosophic inquiry into the self and into our professional calling, and establishing a balance among "...rights, responsibilities, and prvileges." Conversation, we learn, promotes listening and sharing and leadss to connectedness, empathy, and participation. Conversation and debate with students and colleagues foster mutual inquiry and break down the barrierss that exclude, thereby reducing "persistent individualism" and building community founded upon a covenant of mutual purpose and responsibility.
Bennett, it must be stressed, is neither an idealist nor a dreamer. He acknowledges the campus realities that make change so difficult - finances, reward structures, institutional size and complexity, protectionism. Nevertheless, under strong leadership, change can occur and a better path adopted, leading to the esstablishment if a true collegium This is a beautifully written, thoughtful, and important book. It should be read by all who care about the future of higher education in the United States.
Janice S. Green Independent consultant to higher education
An Encouraging Read Jul 25, 2005
This book has rekindled my faith in the humanizing potential of academic life. Bennett seeks to move beyond the "insistent individualism" that so permeates faculty and administrative life in colleges and universities, with its competitive, performance oriented, and self-protective focus. He offers instead a vision of hospitality. Grounded in covenantal relationships of mutuality, respect, open conversation, and genuine support, hospitality is a virtue that can foster communities of trust rather than fear. At first, this kind of vision might seem "soft" and ineffective, but the research Bennett marshals suggests otherwise--teaching can be enriched, scholarship empowered, curriculums enhanced, leadership energized.
The use of the word "spirituality" in the title, however, might be misleading to some readers. While religiously affiliated colleges and universities will find much in Bennett's argument that resonates with their own mission statements, the basic argument of the book does not rest on "faith claims" of one sort or another. The discussion of spirituality mainly stresses personal life-philosophy, a way of seeing one's self in meaningful relation to others and the cosmos. This is a strength that makes the book relevant to all readers, "religious" or not.
Perhaps more might have been said about problems of gender and racial equity, freedom of expression, and power structures in academia. For, as the author knows, hospitality is not merely an easy cover to "leave things as they are." It can and should be a vehicle for critique and resistance, for transforming distorted systems of communication (pp. 101, 110-12). And yet there are real socio-economic pressures that run counter to this ideal.
Overall, I highly recommend the book. The writing is clear and the argument balanced. It will provoke many fruitful discussion in the academy.
A captivating book Mar 17, 2005
Academic Life: Hospitality, Ethics, and Spirituality is a page-turner, a description I most often reserve for fast-moving books of fiction. However, even before I turned the first page, I knew this was a book I was not going to be able to put down. Bennett's conceptual framework of academic life is as captivating as it is sound.
While reading Academic Life, I remembered how excited I was during my early career as a professor, actually believing that I - along with other scholars - could help solve some of the pressing needs of humankind. My enthusiasm was short lived. I quickly discovered the obstacles that Bennett describes, particularly the "significant proclivities toward individualism." And I soon saw how "healthy academic ethics and spiritualities struggle for breath." As Bennett writes, "Insistent individualism promotes the isolated self - it advances disconnection among faculty and staff as well as between faculty, staff, students, and institutions. It works against internal integration and separates personal from professional lives. It encourages exclusiveness rather than relationality, self-protection rather than openness to the other. It celebrates instrumental rather than relational knowledge. Insistent individualism encourages disciplinary and specialty boundaries, isolated departments, and fragmented institutions."
Bennett is a gifted writer and a profound thinker who engages and challenges all of us who care about higher education. He makes a strong case for relational individualism where leaders "model the importance of conversation by practicing hospitality and honoring covenant." Bennett explains: "Being a hospitable leader means recognizing that colleagues and students have different contributions to make to each other and to the classes and groups of which they are members. Practicing this kind of leadership means modeling and enabling contributions that are thoughtful and sensitive to the humanity of the other - that are respectful of individual dignity, even though that respect may not be initially returned."
"Only when education leaders and all who participate in higher education allow themselves to be truly formed as well as informed by conversation and hospitable teaching, scholarship, and service, can the academy remain true to itself. Only when we see ourselves as members of a covenantal collegium can higher education stand against the elements of anti-intellectualism that threaten our work as educators - reducing education to the transmission of information and credentialing. When pursued with genuine openness, learning makes a difference in who we are," Bennett advises.
If I were to recommend only one book on higher education this year, it would be Bennett's thoughtful and profound book, which examines hospitality, ethics, and spirituality as a part of academic life. It is indeed a page-turner.