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Some of the shitty things about academia
…and maybe it’s no wonder academia was so disappointing on Covid
From 2018, on some of the reasons I left academia years earlier to secure more intellectual freedom. Takes on new implications after two years of failure from academia.
Inspired today to list some of the shitty things about academia.
1/ Teaching a course, yet knowing that same course is available online by some super-teacher who does it better.
2/ Tenure, which, rather than incentivizing novel breakthroughs, tends to instead lead to complacency.
3/ “Grant shoppers”, professors who constantly scour proposal announcements and scheme about how they can cram their hammer into any hole. (Mixed metaphor.)
4/ Team grants, where one professor spins a bullshit story about how we dozen professors together will do groundbreaking work. The other eleven are like, “Sure, put my name on, whatever.”
5/ Giant lab fiefdoms, each determined to grow the largest.
6/ The lack of proper faculty lounges that faculty actual go to and socialize, rather than just go for lunches with the job candidate. (University College Cork actually has a proper one.)
7/ Students hope to do a PhD and come up with a heeyuge big new crazy idea. Instead they are plopped into a lab, asked to do professor’s experiment i+1.
8/ The money. The only way to have it truly rise is to leave for another university, or successfully threaten to do so.
9/ Seeing some great engineering minds incentivized to do stupid bullshit with $5 million grants, delivering a dead fish. Their effect in private enterprise could be explosive.
10/ How every professor thinks he’s / she’s the paradigm example of “multidisciplinary”, but nearly all of them are...so...not.
11/ Spending most of one’s energy and time on applying for grants. ...grants that then tie one’s creativity down.
12/ Going to conferences, and seeing the “stars” of the field, and the fawning, and they all really truly believe they are stars. But no one gives a shit outside that room.
13/ At a talk and someone casually jests about how the Republican president is a fascist, as is anyone not sufficiently far left. Everyone giggles. The three libertarians sigh to themselves.
14/ The denouncements and petitions, treating campus as a microcosm of the injustices of the world, or the world they fantasize exists.
15/ The squelching of free speech for anyone not sufficiently far left: stealing conservative newspapers, disrupting talks, forcing professors out.
16/ Professors are always traveling to exotic locations for conferences on their grant’s dime. It’s not because they’re *producing* anything. It’s a racket, on the government’s dime.
17/ That undergraduates pay absurd tuition for the privilege of having the best professors try their damnedest to stay as far as possible from them.
18/ That graduate students actually believe that there’s a good probability they’ll get a good job.
19/ That the idea of being outside of academia is deemed a horrible failure. (Once outside, the hypnotic appeal dissipates immediately.)
20/ That it’s no place for theorists, yet theorists are needed more than ever. Yardstick of success is largely grants, and grants are almost exclusively experiments.
21/ Seeing entire careers determined by virtue of the research of his/her mentor in grad school he / she happened into. First grant easier if on same topic. Second grant easier if on that too. Etc for 40 years.
22/ How whole swaths of biology and neuroscience professors believe in evolution, but for all practical purposes don’t, because they believe that to actually hypothesize about it amounts to “just so” stories.
23/ And how in the behavioral sciences, if you use evolution to explain anything, you are either deeply confused or fascist, or both.