20 May 2012
By Sarah Davies
A friend sent me a link to this blog post the other day: a crushing account of one academic’s disillusionment with her career and, specifically, the fact that her “soul was dying at the University of Illinois”. Karen Kelsky, who now works as an advisor to early career academics, charts out how a humourless, community-free environment eventually wore her down (despite considerable success: she was head of department by the time of her departure). She writes:
A few encounters set the tone quickly: In the first week when I had my music playing as I unpacked boxes in my office, a colleague came by within minutes to say, “please turn that off; it’s very distracting.” In the first month or so, when one colleague and I drove out into the country for a secretary’s housewarming party, and discovered, awkwardly, that we were the only 2 of the 20 or so faculty members invited, who actually had bothered to show up. In the first semester, when, while teaching a seminar in the department seminar room, the Head burst in to berate me in front of the students for not getting his authorization first. In the first year, when I entertained colleagues at dinner parties only to have them act as if they had never met me when next I saw them.
Her experience sounds horrible, and, while some aspects of it are familiar – for instance those who are convinced that they are “very, very important” and “very, very smart” – I can’t say that I’ve ever found my workplaces this bad. But, from the comments below the post, she seems to have touched a nerve. Is her story familiar to any readers here?