:: “The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” -James Baldwin

This quote came across my Twitter feed today.

(It was a RT by someone I follow of a tweet by someone I don’t know, so I’m preserving her privacy and not linking to her it here—I don’t link to people without permission. Let me send out a thank you to the person who passed this tweet through my timeline today.)

I’ve been in academia for 11 years. If you count my master’s program, when I had to fend off bizarre antics by two different male professors, and law school, when my favorite professor was denied tenure for being a woman (don’t make me fight you about this one), even longer.

The point is, I’ve pursued this profession for the first half of my professional life, give or take. And I can see that this profession is really ugly. But I’m wondering, today, is academia any uglier than any other profession? Or do I just see it’s ugly side because I am intimate with academia? And does everyone see academia’s ugly side?


Is it possible for a tenure-track/tenured person at an R1 to jamble along and never ever see the ugliness of academia the way we NTTs do? For it to actually not be ugly for them at all?

Like the dude who lives on Park Ave., and the homelessness and hunger and desperation and poverty are invisible to him? (I don’t like overly dramatic comparisons as a rule, but just picture the dude getting in his town car for his trip down to Goldman and never looking up from his Blackberry.)

Recently, a super-tenured dude in my division asked one of my NTT colleagues just how much we made—because he had no idea.

(I know how much super-tenured dude makes, because it is public record and because I took that public data and created a spreadsheet to compare salaries by race and sex. I enjoy staring ugliness in its ugly face.)

We he learned what we make, he dropped an f-bomb out of shock, or so I’ve heard. My Park Ave. Professor just had never thought about it. That’s his privilege.

So I think that perhaps NTTs (and others, like women who get denied tenure for not being masculine enough yes that happened and others who are so wildly underrepresented you wonder how we all survive in the academic world at all) get an even uglier side of academia, actually.

Because we have to think about it. We’re forced to stare ugliness in the face every day. And it ain’t pretty.

Sorry for the gloom. Perhaps some cheer tomorrow.

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