Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Insidious Borg

Something of which I have been accused since moving north of the Mason-Dixon line (again) is that my speech is not direct enough (for example: 'the garbage is full' rather than 'could you please take out the garbage?').

I realized today that my turns of phrase are the product of a dual attack--living for several years in the South, where NOTHING is direct, and working in academe, where no one can take a stand, unless is it the accepted party-line, whatever that might be. I was reading Ms. Mentor in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and she gave a list of possible phrases and their meanings for colleagues who left or were demoted and it hit me like a bolt from the blue--I've been borged--assimilated into the indirect, euphemism-driven life of academia. Some of those examples used by Ms. Mentor are:

"If Eddie were a suddenly demoted administrator, you'd say he had decided to "spend more time with his family" or "devote himself to research and teaching." If he were a sexual harasser who'd been told to leave the campus, the official line would be something like, "He's pursuing other opportunities."
I'm hoping that realizing part of the cause can lead towards a cure. But this leads my train of thought to another issue that I discussed in a previous post. The problem of having academics in positions of power, such as the Presidency. If the accepted practice in academia is to refer to the fact that a sexual harasser or predator is now "pursuing other opportunities" (and it is, I've seen it--the horrifying part is that the 'other opportunities' are other potential victims), then how can any academic face any issue head-on??

In a world where 'those who can't, teach', what kind of savvy can such a person bring to the national and international stages?? Now I've also seen academic in-fighting (so much energy goes into winning so little) and it's nasty, but not the type of nasty that will translate into any 'street-smart' tactics (like how the Russians made Obama look like a complete fool with the chair trick).

I've had enough experience outside academe, I'm no longer living in the South, AND I have a non-academic partner so I can be deprogrammed, but I don't see that happening for others.

No comments: