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Volume 54, Number 1 Winter 2021
Edited by Dominique Thomas and Allana Zuckerman, Mesa Community College
Community psychology is in danger, but not for the reason you may think. We must ask ourselves if we have properly allocated our time and resources as a field. Being so wedded to the academy and higher education may end up being our downfall rather than the legitimacy we may seek from these domains. When we’re forced by university logic to devote so much time and mental energy into these structures, we have less so for communities. This logic reproduces itself within CP; training as community psychologists and as instructors often has left us feeling more disconnected from our communities, unable to feel totally at home as community psychologists. What communities does community psychology currently serve?
Within an academic framework, words like “mentor” are utilized in ways that are more in line with traditional vertical hierarchical structures thereby reproducing problematic power dynamics that are then perpetuated beyond graduate training. These traditional power dynamics are exactly the type we actively condemn when discussing structures outside of academia however they are being reproduced many times over within CP graduate training programs. What messages are we sending to potential future or budding community psychologists by reproducing the same power dynamics within our programs that we fight against in other spaces? Furthermore, community engagement and methodologies are not valued as highly within academia and many students are therefore deterred from community work as they are not properly acknowledged for it. If community work is undervalued in academia, then why is it that the academy is the only space where CP is legitimized? Why should the norms of the academy influence how we work with and serve communities? Are we serving two different masters, community and the academy? Why are so many resources in CP tied to whether someone is tied to an academic institution? Why are so many resources in CP available through academic structures, usually where people have to pay to be involved? Is CP pay to play?
If we asked “what is community psychology?” would the same answer come from academics, community practitioners, or community members? Should community psychology be formed in the image of the academy or the community? Where is community psychology housed in terms of institutional resources, power, and relationships? If community psychology is too attached to higher education, possibly a sinking ship, then would CP go with it?