(that’s my desk, it’s not screen saver worthy)
The academy is fraught with misconceptions about old men with white hair who sit around all day smoking their pipe while wearing sweater vests and discussing philosophical questions in a cloud of smoke.
Sadly, about 90% of that is untrue. The sweater vests and the discussions are about the only two things in that statement that remain intact at all here in the academy. And maybe some old guys ;~)
Academia, like many professions, is built on notions and stereotypes that simply do not hold up anymore. As someone who sits in two worlds, I can say that these stereotypes are about as far from true as possible. I sit in the agriculture world too and trust me, it ain’t all stereotypes there either.
Instead of perpetuating these notions, it’s time to get real and quit trying to create screen saver moments for others.
- We’re hustlers.
- We’re entrepreneurs.
- We’re teaching.
- We’re advising.
- We’re researching.
- We’re publishing.
- And we’re running.
Toward the next thing, toward the next grant, toward recruiting the next set of students, toward the next research project that’s unpaid but we hope will lead to something paid.
We are not sitting around chatting for long. The academy isn’t going to remain this stone thing in an ivory tower. It’s crumbling around us. Funding continues to be cut, pressure to increase enrollment is up, pressure to recruit, pressure to submit grants, pressure….Insert the song by Queen now.
Sometimes, it helps to have some real talk. I call it “come to jesus” talk and it means no disrespect to anyone but the tone is set. I had this talk with a grad student recently. He had failed. Failed miserably and instead of owning it, he tried to flee the scene of his ‘crime,’ doing no work. I let him think he was running for a week and then he had to face his own music.
And he got tears in his eyes.
I didn’t yell. I didn’t have to.
Continually creating a screen saver moment for him wasn’t going to work. He wasn’t going to learn. And if someone had taken a picture of our meeting, it would hardly be worthy of an instagram post.
But it was real.
Vivid, living, and in color. There were no rose colored glasses.
This semester, I encourage all of us to quit trying to create screen saver moments. For ourselves, for our students, for everyone. While there are accomplishments and victories to be celebrated, when we try and glamorize our hustle, we’re feeding into the stereotype I outlined in the first sentence of this post and academia is the polar opposite now.