When I shared a post and meme about the classic notion of the academic in an ivory tower recently, I also shared on Facebook some of my own experience that led to my change of perspective. Here is what I wrote:
In my own teaching experience, several things helped me shift away from the classic model of the “disinterested” researcher and “impartial” classroom moderator. One was the recognition that, in the interest of being non-partisan, I was staying silent about unjust structures that negatively impacted colleagues and students. Another was the recognition that even in asking students to consider evidence that might lead them to revise their views, there were values and commitments that I was advocating – to a particular approach to religion, one that is not shielded from but responds positively to new (or in some cases quite old) information. The academic who stays isolated in an ivory tower is not impartial in a positive sense, but is most likely contributing to injustice through silence and disengagement.
In other words: It is possible to be both open-minded, and to passionately work for justice. One is not forced to choose one or the other.