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“in academia, perseverance is redefined as the ability to suffer silently or to survive on family wealth”

April 11, 2013

Self-degradation sustains the adjunct economy, and we see echoes of it in journalism, policy and other fields in which unpaid or underpaid labour is increasingly the norm. It is easy to make people work for less than they are worth when they are conditioned to feel worthless.

Thomas A Benton wrote in 2004, before tackling the title question, “Is Graduate School a Cult?”:

“Although I am currently a tenure-track professor of English, I realise that nothing but luck distinguishes me from thousands of other highly-qualified PhD’s in the humanities who will never have full-time academic jobs and, as a result, are symbolically dead to the academy.”

Benton’s answer is yes, and he offers a list of behaviour controls used by cults — “no critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate”, “access to non-cult sources of information minimised or discouraged” — that mirror the practices of graduate school. The author lived as he wrote: it was later revealed that “Thomas A Benton” was a pseudonym used by academic William Pannapacker when he wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education - a publication said to employ more pseudonyms than any other American newspaper. The life of the mind is born of fear.

Read More | “Academia’s indentured servants” | Sarah Kendzior | Al Jazeera