I finished drafting this post back before the extent of the coronavirus pandemic was becoming known. And now, of course, the impact of the virus around the globe—and on higher education in particular—continues to evolve. So I had been sitting on this post for some time; I wasn’t sure how a rapidly changing landscape of higher education, replete with hiring freezes and bleak budgetary outlooks, might impact these conversations. I’m still uncertain. But I’m publishing this now in the expectation that ethical conversations about budgets as they pertain to students and teaching are likely to become more important now than ever. I’m grateful to Mackenzie Brooks, Amanda Visconti, and Elizabeth Fox for reading the post over.
Caveats aside—this post is part of a larger project I’m working on over the course of the year about the intersections of digital humanities pedagogy as it can reflect and enact infrastructural change in higher education. While each post is meant to stand on its own, they do participate in a longer conversation. It might be helpful to explore the framing post for the series for context.
I will talk elsewhere about opportunities for pedagogical interventions in the context of credit-bearing courses. For now, I wanted to speak primarily from my own institutional perspective. As the Head of Student Programs for a library-based center for digital research, the teaching that I do tends not to happen in for-credit courses. Instead, my teaching takes place in a range of activities: year-long student fellowships that carry a stipend that I design and administer in collaboration with the rest of the Scholars’ Lab, one-on-one consultations, one-off workshops, and more. Roughly half of my working life is spent on the actual work of theorizing and carrying out teaching. The other half is spent on developing the administrative infrastructure to allow such work to happen, for myself and others. With that in mind, I wanted to pause over the kinds of pedagogical interventions that can be made by people in these kinds of positions—whether we describe them as alt-academic, para-academic, academic, or otherwise. For that reason, the following does not apply so much to teaching in credit bearing courses, though it might offer useful food for thought as it applies to a range of pedagogical situations.