Citizen Scholars Program Name Change to Community Scholars Program

The name of our CSP program has changed from “Citizen Scholars Program” to “Community Scholars Program.”

There has been discussion about changing the name of the Citizen Scholars Program for many years. Much of the concern has centered around the use of the word “citizen.” In the field of civic engagement this word is often used to describe what it means to be actively involved in working in a local (or global) community. However, “citizen” has always been a term fraught with other meaning -  namely as a label for individuals who have access to certain resources, participation, and rights that are denied to others - simply because of immigration status. Especially given the current atmosphere - where increasing surveillance and physical and psychological violence are enacted on undocumented people and their families, the staff of the program feel that we can no longer use this word in our program name. Instead, we have changed the name to the Community Scholars Program - which we believe reflects our commitment to human rights and justice for all human beings, no matter their country of origin.

I also wanted to note our rationale for keeping the word “scholar,” as there has also been some concern that the use of this term is a nod to the elitism of (and within) the university, and separates those of us inside the academy from the communities in which we live and work. We would like to challenge this notion by suggesting that scholarship can be (and is) produced in many different ways, in many different spaces, and by many different individuals. We don’t believe, for example, that someone has to have a college degree or have had a formal education to be engaged in the work of scholarship (acknowledging, too, that not everyone uses this term). When the word “community” and “scholars” are linked together, the idea of knowledge production without boundaries is underscored even further.

Please don’t hesitate to contact CSP Program Director, Deborah Keisch (dkeisch@umass.edu) or CESL Director, Joseph Krupczynski (jkrup@umass.edu) with questions on this name change.