Ten rules for succeeding in academia through upward toxicityRoundup
tags: education, academia
Irina Dumitrescu is professor of English medieval studies at the University of Bonn.
Think the way to forge a brilliant career in academe is to produce good research, teach skilfully and mentor generously? That arduous approach works for some – but there is an easier way.
Universities sing the song of meritocracy but dance to a different tune. In reality, they will do everything to reward and protect their most destructive, abusive and uncooperative faculty. The more thoroughly such scholars poison departments, programmes and individual lives, the more universities double down to please them.
Universities are even willing to ruin their own reputations and alienate their alumni to protect bullies and abusers. They might think that reputation management demands that such behaviour be swept under the carpet, but they ought to know that the scandals will break eventually, and that the cover-up will make them look worse. Some universities even hire people in the full knowledge of abuse allegations against them, thereby becoming invested in keeping secret their decision to put their students in harm’s way.
You too can become upwardly toxic; if you are the sort of person who likes harassing less powerful people, you will enjoy it, too. It is not necessary to actually be a genius scholar or administrator. Once enough people buy into the elaborate fiction of your irreplaceability, everyone will play along. To maintain it, universities will devalue the work of colleagues and students who are more brilliant, productive or collegial. These people, in turn, will internalise the message that they are inferior, and will be too busy dealing with their shattered confidence to pose a threat.
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