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The Chronicle of Higher Evil

I make no secrets about my feelings for the Chronicle of Higher Education. There are times when the articles they publish make academia a little more transparent, and that can be a good thing. But there are other times when their interest is clearly motivated by the bottom line--in fact, I'd say that that's all the time, and that what benefits we get from them are a side effect.

Over at Rhubarb, where I first saw this, I've commented, but I ended up feeling strongly enough about it to add something here. There's a CHE article called Stuck in Transition, by and about a woman (psuedonymmed Eleanor Robinson) who was going through 3rd year review in her department, and miscarried. The story is a sad one, and made all the worse by the fact that Robinson doesn't tell any of her colleagues about the miscarriage, for fear of damaging her review:

I needed to compartmentalize my emotions in order to get my work done....

In the end, that was the simplest reason that I did not say anything about my miscarriage: I could not talk about the loss without crying. And justified or not, I could not get past the thought that women who cry at work cannot easily, in the next breath (or on the next page), describe themselves as competent professionals.

What really takes my sadness to the point of anger here is that "the thought" comes from the Chronicle itself, which has delighted in publishing "research" about how various people are treated or mistreated in the academy. Robinson writes about how she has internalized all of the Chronicle articles about women and mothers in the academy, and how she and her partner planned out her pregnancy accordingly. Robinson does compartmentalize her emotions, and gets a glowing review, after taking a week-long extension because of "family problems," as she tells the chair of her review committee.

But that's not what makes me angry. What really irks me here is the lack of self-consciousness with which the Chronicle is publishing an article that is partly about how the ideas published in the Chronicle led this woman to keep her miscarriage a secret, to isolate herself emotionally from her friends and colleagues, to prevent her from receiving support at a place and at a time where she obviously needed it. The Chronicle's answer to that would, of course, be that Robinson made her own choice, and she did, but she made it based on information from a source that frequently publishes opinion and provocation masquerading as facts, trends, and customs. It's certainly not true of everything they do, but their first responsibility is not to helping reader understand academia--it's to their own bottom line.

I don't know how else to explain the presence, in this heart-wrenching story, of a link to the story about mothers in the academy, the very one that led Robinson to deny who she was and what she was going through as a person so that she could shine as a "competent professional." It's cynical enough that the Chronicle would publish this piece, but for them to add a link to the original feature in the middle of a story about the pain that it caused, is evil.

Pure. Evil.


What's truly funny (not ha-ha) is that it was the Chronicle that first scared the pants off me about attending graduate school, and it has been the Chronicle that has kept me away from doing any kind of work about moms/families in academia.

I guess I got over both.

And while I'm here, I'll let you know that your new cool background/gutter-thingy has made the text nearly invisible on my 12-inch. Not that it will discourage me from reading. :)

While going through the long 3-year review process, one of my female colleagues who has a child was told by another older, *female* colleague that a previous assistant professor who had a child didn't get tenure. At the time I thought that was pretty evil. It's hard enough to be a parent in general and an assistant prof in general. Don't rub it in when someone happens to be both.