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'Being' in academia




When I initially drafted out this post, I have to say, it came out in anger. It's interesting how much some of these things really got to me, and how that anger was reflected in my writing. I can think of specific examples for each one of these things, and on reflection, it saddens me that some of these things are pretty normative, in all roles, levels, and regions of academia.

I haven't been teaching for very long - 6 short years at this point - but there are some things that I’ve learnt about how to be a 'good' academic. We all have our own shit to deal with and process, but there’s still a way that I think is nice to be as an academic, and also, just as a person.

  1. Say thank you. This applies in so many instances. As an academic, say thank you if you’ve been to a conference and you enjoyed a talk, or a workshop, or the event itself. Send a thank you to another academic if you enjoyed their paper, or if you used it as a key reading and the students really engaged. Big them up on social media! Just because you follow them and love their puppy photos, doesn't mean everyone else has got to experience the love yet. It doesn’t take much, but those little things are really appreciated.

  2. Don’t slag off students in online spaces. This one I really don’t understand. We will always encounter people we don’t necessarily get on with, but to really go in about a student online is just awful. I understand that venting can be useful for your own sanity, and even as a way of gaining advice. But you have no idea what that student is going through, and heaven forbid they ever found out, what impact that would have on them. If you have an issue with them, can you not just address it, or go write it in a private diary to work through? Social media ain’t the place. And this most certainly applies at ALL levels.

  3. Don’t abuse power. This is such a big one. As academics, we hold a lot of power in many different instances, and this really does get abused. If students can get their assignments in on time, we have a right to get them back on time (I am aware there are instances where this is a struggle, I’m not stupid, but I really have seen people say they’re bored or can’t be bothered, and that’s not on). If a student emails you, bloody well email them back. Just because you don’t believe in emails as a form of communication, you don’t know how much it could have taken that student to reach out. And finally - your title as an academic does not automatically entitle you to respect. I’m sorry, but not sorry. It doesn’t. If someone, a person, is rude to me, I don’t give a damn who they are, I’m not going to respect them. Those kind of ‘better than thou’ hierarchies are toxic.

  4. Support your team. Are there early career researchers in the department? Are there any Calls for Papers you're aware of that may suit a colleague? Can you work collaboratively with anyone? Do you have some time spare to read through a paper and give some feedback? Creating divisions in a department because of associated topic interests doesn’t help anything. And students really pick up (and play on) these divisions too. You can also support your module teams - run trainings, go out for lunch or dinner, or go and do something fun. Happy teams work, they just do.

Just a note to finish this post on - this is by no means a prescriptive list, and I'm fully aware that there are more nuanced gendered, racialised, and class-based elements that could be applied to all of these, and more - perhaps another blog post for another time. More for me, this is about directly addressing an outdated toxic culture, and enabling a more open and inclusive environment that benefits everyone involved.


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