Higher education institutions have found themselves in an unprecedented situation. Within the context of isolation and physical distancing media plays a central role in how universities communicate their continued relevance and how they govern and discipline faculty and students. Who has access to media and what assets they have to access influential outlets is central when these channels are key to determining what knowledge is shared and who is seen as legitimate. In this paper, I will delve into the forms of capital that make some academic voices more prominent than others and the impact this has on knowledge. I present two celebrity academics with divergent views of the role of academics in a time of crisis. In particular I will examine how their respective universities amplify, marginalize, or attempt to suppress their voices and compare and contrast this to legacy, student and social media coverage. Based on these two cases I will conclude by reflecting on the possibilities and limits of universities in times of uncertainty and the role of academics acting in solidarity to promote academic freedom through their media engagement.
Michelle Stack, PhD, is an associate professor, former senior policy advisor and public commentator on education. Her research interests include equity and education, media education, representations of mental health and illness, the role of media in the policymaking process, community and youth engagement. She is the author of a book on higher education rankings, titled Global University Ranking and the Mediatization of Higher Education and is currently editing a second book on rankings, journal impact factors and inequity in higher education. Michelle has led numerous courses and workshops focused on building the capacity of scholars and scholar-practitioners to engage media to expand research informed public conversations and policy debates.