Tuesday, September 16, 2003
I created this blog because, after spending a considerable portion of my life and career in academia, I've realized that it's not working -- not for most of the students and not for most of the faculty.

In 1996, Professor Emeritus Kekes at SUNY Albany published an article in The Monist entitled "Academic Corruption." This phrase sounds kind of bombastic, doesn't it -- corruption, like it was some kind of underworld. But actually, it kind of is.

Academia is at the heart of the North American system. Universities and colleges all over the United States and Canada are set up to shape young minds and nourish new ideas.

If you believe this, then, honestly, how could you be so naive?

Colleges and universities are about Money and Power. I'm not really very interested in promoting an "academics are big evil tyrants" stance. If truth be told, many academics are SMALL, evil tyrants. Small-minded people with small ethics combined with a big dose of self-interest and ego-mania.

All joking aside now (was I joking?), serious problems exist with our public education systems in the United States and in Canada. Kekes wrote about how the peer evaluation system is biased and corrupted throughout academia, including the teaching, research, and hiring aspects of academia. Cronyism, mutual back scratching, friendships, sexual affairs, marriages -- all of these affect who gets to teach and how students are taught, who gets to be students, who passes, and who fails.

In turn, it affects what gets studied and what we learn. Peer evaluation means . . . does the person being evaluated agree with what I believe . . . will this person vote for me to be chair next year . . . can I get my patent faster if we ditch this faculty member . . . do I like this person . . . if I give this grant application a good review, will they give me a good review next year . . . . Peer evaluation means a lot of things, but it is definitely not unbiased and definitely not free from self-interest and self-promotion.

Universities have other kinds of problems too, like why, on some campuses, do 50% of engineering students flunk out in first year? Why, knowing this is going to happen, do universities allow these students to enter and then TAKE THEIR MONEY!?! Why not have a "satisfaction or your money refunded guarantee"? I know this sounds consumerist, but that's what campuses are like now-a-days -- consumerist.

Why, on some campuses, are 40-60% of the faculty underpaid, overworked slaves -- Masters and PhD-level faculty who are refused tenure but then "invited" to teach at much lower rates of pay so that the university can make more money by accepting more students -- while, at the same time, ripping off its part-time faculty of decent wages so that tenured profs can make more money and teach mostly small, upper-level and graduate classes -- oh, of course, and do research on a topic of their own choosing, whether or not the world actually cares about what they're studying?

Yup, lots of problems, alright. And these are just the tip of the ice-berg.

Who gets to study, who gets to teach, whose opinions are blocked, who is underpaid -- this is the wide-open side of academia. Write to me and tell me about your academic experience. On this blog, I'll publish quotations from your e-mails and reflections on what people send to me, but I can't publish people's names or institution names . . . you know why.

A few topic possibilities . . .

grad school pressures and supervisors

the life of a new academic

contract work in academia

academic faculty associations that hurt instead of help

cronyism

the "justice" of merit increments

grant awards -- who gets them, who doesn't

I have so many stories to share with you, but I'll let you share first and then elaborate as we go along.

If nobody shares . . . then, alas, you'll only get to hear all my war stories . . . over and over again.

A final word:

Nearly two years after starting this blog, I'll tell you what my battle cry was (from the "war stories" link above):

Skulking on the fields, clutching a thorned whip, cometh Academy Girl! And she gives a gutteral cry: "I'm going to redefine your concept of 'playing hardball with the big boys'!!"

I don't know if I did that or not, but, after two years of discussing university reform on academicgame, I don't want to play with the big boys anymore. There are a few people I'd like to thank, fellow bloggers whose blogs I will keep reading and whose perspective I have come to value. In thanking them, of course, I want to make it clear that they in no way actually know me or even support this blog in anyway. Nevertheless, as I leave this blog, I'd like to tip my hat to Stephen Karlson over at Cold Spring Shops, Milt Rosenberg at Milt's File, Jay Rosen at PressThink, Rana at Frogs and Ravens, wolfangel at A Wolfangel is not a Good Angel, David Foster at Photon Courier, and the Invisible Adjunct, wherever you are. To the many readers, e-mailers, and commenters who kept up with this blog, my sincere thanks to all.

I wish you well, and remember, academia's not the only game in town.