"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I do love me a good blogosophere kerfuffle, like this one brewing over at The Chronicle. Er, I used to. I wouldn't even have known about this, given how infrequently I read that esteemed publication these days, if JC hadn't mentioned it and linked in her comments to an old post of mine.

A couple years ago, I would have been slinging mud with the best of them. These days, the pettiness and incivility just strikes me as sad. I think the author of that piece takes a reasonable stand, but readers don't have to agree with her in order to respect it, especially since it's a personal piece. That's what's the real turn-off for me -- the personal attacks against someone who courageously speaks up against what she has experienced as an illness-inducing, hopeless, and exploitative situation.

What gives? You expect it from opposite sides of the political divide, say, in the comments to a HuffPo piece on the climate wars. Even there, comments are more along the line of "You're a stupid commie shithead!" "No, YOU'RE a stupid right-wing douchewad shithead!" This is sad in its own way, but it isn't personal.

When it comes from inside academe to another academic, a postacademic, an altacademic -- or whatever -- it is both personal and unprofessional. It is a reflection of the toxic environment that, for a lot of us, is one of a host of factors that caused us to choose to leave. Frankly, I haven't encountered it in the workplace culture on the outside. You have your friends, your enemies, and your frenemies, but people basically treat each other with a degree of professional respect. It's refreshing.


  1. Hey, I really do feel bad about bringing a troll over here....I took your link out of my comment over there. They aren't showing up at my place, so it seems pretty shitty to bring them over here.

    Glad to see you're doing well!

    1. Oh, please don't feel bad. I can handle me a troll now and again! As I commented over at your place, that post needed to see the light of day again and judging by the number of hits it's gotten from the Chronicle link relative to the minimal amount of troll blather, I'd say a lot more people read it and got what was meant to be gotten out of it. So thanks for putting the link there! Even if I haven't been saying a whole lot lately and have been staying out of the kerfluffles, I have no intention of shutting up either. It's really quite extraordinary -- that push to get us to shut up. Like, really? If things are so great, they should be able to take a little noise on our end more graciously. But then, as you and I both know, things aren't really so great ...

    2. I have to admit, I've been a little bit taken aback by the level of vitriol. The people at the CHE who are trying to say that RS is some kind of unstable mental case and that clearly that's why she hasn't gotten a job? Oh, please.

      (And even if that were true? Fine. But what about the other 10,000 Ph.D. graduates over the last 5 years who haven't gotten jobs? Are they all personally to blame?? Keep on telling yourselves that...)

      All in all, the whole kerfuffle has had the opposite effect than they thought it would - I'm newly motivated to post more. What the hell do I have to lose? I'm out of academia ... they can't hurt me!

  2. I left academia after 5 years, and I have had a similar experience: the nasty politics that I saw daily in academia do not exist outside of it. People treat each other professionally because that's part of the job!

    Life is soooo much better out of the academy!

  3. i agree life is better out of the academy, but in my old corporate life (before the phd) i have to say I found the workplace a pretty petty and backstabby kind of place. i'm sure it varies from office to office.

    the ad hominem over at the chronicle doesn't surprise me. people tend to get really defensive and nasty when they know they are wrong.

    I'm with you (and your commenters) - I'm so glad to be out of that nastiness - observing from the outside where they can't touch me.

  4. Comradde PhysioProffeMay 20, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    There is nasty politics in every profession. Where academia differs is in the disdain for and dehumanization of those who leave. For example, when an attorney leaves a law firm for a corporation, former colleagues are happy to maintain relationships and see the former colleague as a potential future client or referral. It is the narcissism of academia that leads academics to the delusion that they have no use for anyone who is not an academic. Of course, if your field of scholarly inquiry is Ancient Greek Basketweaving, you are probably correct.

    1. totally agree with comradde.

  5. The 2 Year Life of the MindMay 30, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    I view some of those CHE comments as intellectual grandstanding. Writing replies and constructing passionate and highly emotional responses, rife with fifty dollar words and complex constructs, while simultaneously insulting and belittling anyone who dare oppose their complex construction of ideas, let alone be smart enough to understand the point they're trying to make. Who do YOU think you are?

    Can you imagine spewing bullshit like this in a conference room in an important meeting? People would look at you like you had a mental disorder. And yet, I read the comments in the CHE to be amused by those who "get off" (and I do mean that) writing unnecessarily complex and verbose comments just to prove who is smarter online.

    Sad. And yet still funny.

  6. Hahaha, so true: "Can you imagine spewing bullshit like this in a conference room in an important meeting? People would look at you like you had a mental disorder."

    There's a self defensive aspect to that behavior, too. People react to others' chocie to leave as if it were a criticism of their choice to stay and of the work that keeps them there.