Monday, April 18, 2005

The life of an academic

A bit of a common thread in today's reading:

I'm doing something wrong. In the past few months, my weekly schedule has filled up with back-to-back appointments. I'm wedging meetings in everywhere. I don't even have time to eat. Aren't professors supposed to spend all their time outside of class at the corner cafe discussing Chomsky over espressos and cigarettes? With summers off, so that the discussion can be continued at a cafe in Provence?
    -- A Gentleman's C, "What's wrong with this picture?"
I’m stressed out. I’ve been stressed out for a long time now. I can’t even recall last time I was laid back.
    -- Daniel Lemire’s blog, "Managing stress: I want to live past 50"
Competition can be a good thing: thinking about our colleagues' work can goad us to achievements that we otherwise wouldn't have reached or would have reached months or years later. But at what price? We see competitive athletes risking their health with steroids as a relatively new phenomenon, but sacrificing one's health has been de rigeur in academia for a long time. And we can't even say, like a businessperson might, that there are financial rewards for this. And yet, the extraordinary has now become the expected, as it becomes not uncommon to hear things such as (from a colleague at an anonymous science department), "We wouldn't hire a woman unless she's already won a Nobel Prize. Women just don't work hard enough." There it is: the expectation that university faculty will sacrifice their personal lives, their family lives, their health, to get out another paper, another grant proposal, be on another committee, (and at some schools) teach another course.

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