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Monday, October 10, 2016

Negativity in the Profession

Negativity in the profession is a funny thing. What I mean is that a full professor at an Ivy-equivalent place with a six-figure salary can be as negative as an adjunct on the poverty line. I don't question anyone's experience. In other words, if that relatively fortunate person is in a professionally abusive situation, then I won't say that they shouldn't feel the way they do.

Negativity can be a cultural norm too. We're always supposed to say "this time in the semester is brutal" and agree with each other that way in the hallway. I never just say: "Are you kidding me? They pay me to read poetry and chat about it to nice young people."

I tend to attribute my problems to myself, so I never said my depression and anxiety, quite heavy from about 98-05, was the fault of the profession or of academia, or of my department or institution. Maybe I should have, but I didn't.


Anonymous said...

Yes, you say it is a cultural norm. I believe you, yet don't have this experience.

I think it is partly senior guy talk, the "this part of the semester is brutal" thing, to prove to each other that they are working or have a lot of work, so are important. Adjunct talk is more like, "Did you get that kayak fixed?"

What I have always found odd is that people don't talk about real work -- teaching and research are secret.

As I say, I remember the negative bent of some R1 people, and I think it is what you are talking about. Easterners and Midwesterners mostly, not Westerners or Southerners. They felt that if you were not suffering you were not valid, and were enjoying themselves so had to convince themselves that actually, something bad was happening -- if not, they would be attacked by guilt or something like that. In the West, enjoying life does not mean you are not intelligent, and in the South, it is expected that you would have things you enjoy and that you might actually enjoy your job.

Anonymous said...

Also, there is the boosterism: I am still not used to it but if you are in anything but R1 you cannot be ironic about the institution ever. You have to be loyal, show school spirit, make sure all legislators think it is wonderful, and keep on insisting how you love everything, would only work at this particular institution, etc. I noticed this at my SLAC and the same phenomenon is here at this sort of SJSU equivalent. You love the students, you are at the perfect institution for you, you love your job, you can't imagine ever doing anything else, etc.: this is the line you *must* take.

Leslie B. said...

Hmm, still thinking about this. I react to the don't be negative exhortations for reasons of my own (and it's useful, the reactions make me remember things) but:

I think the don't be negative thing *is* the mainstream cultural norm. You are *supposed* to say that you do not do this for the money, i.e. if you did not need to make a living you would do this for free, that it is the only thing you can imagine doing, etc. This is the expectation.

In my case, it was in fact what I wanted from early on -- at least the research and writing part, and the advanced teaching part, and also the program development part. I just don't see why one shouldn't be critical of some things, and I think the muzzling of criticism is one of the more abusive aspects of academia.

It's also job search time for the graduate students and there's almost nothing there, so I am having difficulty saying everything is fine (or that the situation is not our fault, who fiddled while Rome burned).