Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More Evidence Of The Great Divide In Academia

I have been trying really hard not to let my old bitter, burning rage at academia ignite once again.  It had been getting so easy, I wondered whether it would ever come back, but something today changed things.  To quote Michael Corleone, just when I thought I was out, they keep pulling me back in.

I read Rebecca Schuman's most recent post which concerned a Chronicle of Higher Education columnist's recent piece on academic internet trolls.  The old bile-filled burning rage boiled up once again from my guts when I read that the columnist claimed that contingent faculty members were most to blame for the lack of civility among academics on the internet.  Her comments also seemed dismissive or just flat out ignorant of the struggles that have pushed so many contingent folks over the edge.

Reading those words in the Chronicle piece reminded me of something I wrote awhile back about the divide between those who have experienced contingent labor, and those who have not. They also reminded me more palpably of how some tenured folk treated me like a nameless peon when I was a contingent faculty member.  Many others at the same institution were nice to me and understanding, but most of those folks had done time in the contingent trenches themselves.

I am not sure what can be done to remedy this divide, because the lifeboater types, like all good Calvinists, think that they are God's elect and those drowning around them have brought their fates upon themselves.  I am reminded of a scene in Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, where the narrator, a prisoner in a Siberian labor camp, discusses how he tried to convince one of the foremen that it was far too cold to work that day.  The foreman refused to listen, to which the narrator responded "how can a man who is warm understand a man who is cold?"

In today's academia the only options are either to leave the rotten system, which is what I did, or start a revolution against it.  The privileged of the profession will never, ever see the light on their own.


bmi said...

Thanks for this post. It comes at a time when I am trying to make a difficult decision about the academic job market. I am struggling with the idea of whether or not I really have a choice in the matter.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Brian, you do have a choice in the matter. Remember, if you leave, YOU are rejecting THEM, not the other way around. When I left academia, I even wrote the profession a rejection letter that summed up why they failed to win the position of my life pursuit.

If this profession is too stupid, heartless, and flat-out cruel to give a person of your qualifications a permanent position then they are the ones who have failed. The profession failed me too, and it can go f#@k itself for all I care. May a thousand curses be upon it.