"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.
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.