WRITING: ACADEMIC POLITICS, 5

Fair play is a basic principle for almost all games. In basketball, for example, you play with your equals of similar capability. You don’t prey on small guys—there is no glory in such wins.

In school politics, however, fair play rarely matters. The tenure system has tenured (seniors, at associate and full levels) with the life-long job security, and untenured  (juniors, at the assistant level) without that security. The road to tenure is demanding: you need to excel on publication records, external review letters, and internal (school) votes. since only the tenured vote,  juniors are vulnerable to bully and exploitation. Indeed, many juniors struggle to get tenure without losing their souls.

This systematic flaw often turns out the nasty side of the academic politics. Last year the Boss wanted to force out certain seniors. Instead of doing it himself, he asked junior E to chair the research committee ( a cover to screw his targets). Afraid of NO vote, E unwillingly accepted the hot position that is not for juniors. As a result, she became the casualty of the Boss’s game: she angered B and G, who both voted NO on her case.

E was not alone. In my case, because I failed to kiss up to him, he requested twice as many outside reviewers, compared to his darling EW,  to double my chance of getting negative assessments. He cherry picked a few negative teaching comments out of hundreds of positive ones. Despite the fact that most publications are collaborative, he criticized me of no solo work.

In my case, he was the only one voted NO. After my first solo article appeared a month later, he reluctantly changed to ABSTAIN. Only after my second solo came out did he finally say YES. Indeed, he had to review the evaluation letter twice. What a waste of time.

A tiny guy, he never learned how to play basketball, let alone fair play.

shark

[SIZE MATTERS? ATLANTA, 2005]

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5 thoughts on “WRITING: ACADEMIC POLITICS, 5

  1. Congrats on tenure! Now you get to spend the rest of your career with these guys :p
    But seriously: kudos to you for holding on to your soul and still making the cut :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • In hinder sight, If I knew the brutality of the game, I would not have taken this path. But it is too late :) Also, I suspect corporate world may be even worse. At least academic pretends that meritocracy rules :)

      “Now you get to spend the rest of your career with these guys”

      —You remind me of how depressing I felt when dealing with those guys. That grinding process has certainly taken its toll on me; it trains people to be hyper-critical: only by finding the flaws in others’ works can you publish your own. It makes you inhuman: after all, there are higher purposes than truth (if any); white lies are necessary for peace :)

      Now I am trying to limit the damage by minimizing my involvement. I guess this is one of the reasons I moved away. As the cliche goes, out of sight, out of mind. Let’s see how it works.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, if only we knew up front what we know after ;) How different our lives would look indeed.
        It sounds like you’re doing fine with your life, at least you didn’t turn into one of them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “at least you didn’t turn into one of them.”

          —Not too sure (otherwise I wouldn’t be wining here :). Anyway, the process does make me bitter and I hate that. Now I focus on my own experiences of happiness, not any external factors.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. political drams are a part of life.. it starts even from school and become worser and worser when we reach the corporate life….wish you a good time ahead..

    Liked by 1 person

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