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Sunday, January 31, 2016

#realacademicbios

The point of #realacademicbios is that academics have real lives, with normal real life problems, that are not present on their academic bios that list their academic accomplishments.

In other words, that academics are human beings.

The problem here is that this only provides a forum for the natural tendency of academics to whine, to moan and groan and make excuses for themselves.

Because, in the first place, everyone has problems, so why are academics' problems so special? Because they work in a university?

Secondly, who would have imagined that simply by working in the university, one was exempt from normal life? That would seem to an academic fantasy. People who post under #realacademicbios are, actually, people who are clinging desperately to that fantasy. Otherwise, their problems would just be the normal problems of life itself.

Thirdly, academia is a place that cares about your accomplishments. I see constantly (lately) the idea that academia should care equally as much about your failures and your inability to get your shit done. So you should have a shadow cv with all your dead-ends, impasses, and rejections. Yes, we all have those, and nobody imagines otherwise. Without those, I would have published three times more. But shouldn't you care about what I've actually contributed?

6 comments:

clarissasblog.com said...

I looked at #realacademicbios, got scared, and left. The capacity of people to feel sorry for themselves is truly incredible. This is a pastime I never understood, so I can't participate.

profacero said...

? All jobs care about your accomplishments, not just academic jobs.

I looked at the tweets, they are about some instances of discrimination and the imperative to keep up a certain kind of family-bourgeois image. These things, among others, do need to be discussed.

At my place the learning conditions of students in some languages are vastly different from those of students in other languages, because certain languages are privileged. Dean says the students not allowed in the language lab should learn just as well as those who are.

I guess you would say it is unseemly of these students to raise the issue?

Jonathan said...

Nice of you to put words in my mouth.

I didn't see many posts about working conditions. Mostly about normal problems of life. One was from someone I know who's published three books at a very junior level still and complains that one of them took too long to come out. She has tenure and a super great publishing record.

Jonathan said...

"His post-divorce crippling loneliness allowed him to better focus on this project that nobody will remember in 20 years." That's the sort of thing I'm talking about.

profacero said...

I might not have worked in the kind of institution where people complain as much as they people you know seem to. Woe-is-me seems to be Ivy League PhDs now reduced to state R1s. The rest of the world isn't like that, we are busy, and I would say academics do not fight back *enough*, are not aware *enough* of how their, and the students' rights are being abrogated daily.

I think some of the tweets are arch. I, too, read acknowledgments in books and think gosh, they are making a huge effort to describe their lives in a certain way, going on for pages about opulent, correctly bourgeois personal and luxurious academic lives, not just listing their academic accomplishments.

I do think people are quite aware that at the end of the day, all that matters professionally are the lines on your vita and some stats. It seems to me you are saying you don't think they understand that, and think they want credit for other things, for just being them.

I know about one entitled person like that -- perhaps you are unfortunate enough to know many more. I do know a lot of cases of discrimination and mistreatment, a lot of people who are on the straight and narrow trying to make it and who need to get punchy sometimes and write an ironic bio to blow off steam, a lot of people who live in circumstances that they would not want to describe in detail in their book acknowledgments, and a lot of administrators who say bad circumstances should not hurt your productivity.

profacero said...

...but I think this is the paragraph of interest:

"Secondly, who would have imagined that simply by working in the university, one was exempt from normal life? That would seem to an academic fantasy. People who post under #realacademicbios are, actually, people who are clinging desperately to that fantasy. Otherwise, their problems would just be the normal problems of life itself."

I think a lot of people, mainly not academics, believe working in the university *is* different. You live in rooms at Cambridge, you wear academic gowns, you eat at the refectory, you are a moral example above the fray, things like that. You are learned and mysterious and you have all these books, and you have been somewhere like Egypt in your youth. You do fieldwork in the summer. You get travel grants. You exude learning even when you are not trying to.

And a lot of students and younger faculty are in awe if one knows how to do certain things and does them easily. They think that if you can do these things that seem amazing to them, you must be Superman in more ways than you are. They think that you make more than you do. Even I feel I must keep house in a certain way, so as to be able to entertain appropriately.

Actually I remember a real academic bio moment, a dinner at the house of a colleague who was a full, to entertain someone, I had brought a bottle of wine I could not afford and my colleague had bought food and spirits he could not afford, either, and we were laughing about how we felt we were required to keep up a certain haut-bourgeois image.

I don't try so hard any more but people do complain about that, say I should.