Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Academic Assholiness

"As we talked we started to wonder: do you get further in academia if you are a jerk?"

A recent blog post, Academic assholes and the circle of niceness, on the Thesis Whisperer examines the increasing trend of academic snobbery, arrogance, and, aptly termed, 'assholiness'.

Some people ask me why I retired early from academia. Depending on the inquirer, my responses range from "It was just time to do so," to a rant on the trend of academic assholiness.

During the last nine years at a large self-inflated university that trend has increased, and, in fact, has been selected for, intentionally or not. After being recruited for a research position there, I was genuinely excited and passionate about my work. Over the next nine years of experience and observations in two departments, that dwindled to waking up every weekday morning and forcing myself to go through the motions. The last two years were simply a job while I prepared to walk away from the Academic Empire.

This is not the only university in which I have observed and experienced Academic Assholiness. Nor have I been close-mouthed about specific examples like many others that endure it and trudge on. My grievances were nodded at, checked off and ignored. I watched with anger as a research lab manager fought for her job with a lawsuit because a department head covertly attempted to have her fired. In this case, it was a prompted by an illness resulting from unhealthy environmental conditions in the department. This was an ongoing complaint by several staff and researchers over several years, but was repeatedly ignored.

Another example was a research scientist that continuously discriminated against gender and race of staff and graduate students in his laboratory. Grievances related to this individual were overtly ignored. Additionally, an academic scientist nearly destroyed the career of a young and brilliant scientist because of a personal dislike for her national affiliation and origin. And another scientist who intentionally recruited foreign graduate students to demand unreasonably long working hours, even threatening their educational and visa status if they complained. Then there's the junior scientist who feels that unrelenting humiliation of graduate and undergraduate students during their seminars or presentations elevates his own academic standing. And, lastly, the arrogant yelling at janitorial and service staff as if they were kicking a dog, or, mostly, their prevalent treatment of them as the Invisibles and Untouchables.

Finally, there is the Nobel Prize researchers recruited and installed in university departments at the expense -their research space and equipment- of other well-established and equally successful (without the NP recognition) academics, and whose snobbery and academic arrogance is overlooked and even smiled upon by university administration.

These are members of the increasing species of Academia assholiata that I see rapidly evolving in our social environment. I could continue with examples from 28 years in academic halls and three universities. Only one of these institutions, a small university, had a credible and effective process for grievances. The other two institutions had sham committees. Speaking openly meant being blacklisted. In the past four years I have seen too many young and bright scientists leave academia, and am now seeing a flood of older scientists flee, some jaded and bitter.I left last year without looking back.

I am heartened and pleased to see more public discourse like this post on these issues, and I encourage others in all levels of academia to be more outspoken.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

KcD Studios: senior thesis

KcD Studios: senior thesis

 A brilliant idea and wonderful artistic imaginative renditions. A great idea to incorporate into teaching chemistry!

Visit Kacie's website and blog to see more artistic renditions of the periodic elements.