I found this post discussed at Perverse Egalitarianism, and found it very brave for this writer to lay out his view of the systemic unhappiness, emotional disengagement, and micropolitics of departmental life. This passage rings especially true for me, when I watch our junior faculty learning about our departmental and institutional history:
The scariest thing a young faculty member experiences is not, as is conventionally supposed, the “need to produce” and therefore her/his experience is not aided by the “mentorship” of an experienced scholar. Rather, the young scholar’s fear stems from the fact that no one in the department is talking to each other about scholarship. Faculty are socializing, going out, schmoozing all the time, and the ideas that supposedly drive the work they do are not being discussed. The mentor, if assigned, will try to teach the young faculty member how to navigate the minefield of the department, but that is exactly what is alienating. . The mentor, especially when well-intentioned, may be the model for what is wrong, not an aid in coping. Indeed, if the mentor is really similar to the young faculty member in terms of ideology or social identity, the mentor may be a model for what the young faculty member does not wish to become.
This was one of the surprises for me when I crossed the line and became tenured: how hard it is to mentor people in a way that doesn’t just invite them to join our shared sense of alienation. The PE comments are worth scanning, too, especially this one:
There is an odd disjunction in the academic. I have never encountered so many supposed-to-be-happy sad persons, all working in a rather lively youth-embued enivornment. To put it to a polemical extreme, it is as if Kafka has written about how Disneyland is run. In my brief time in academia I encountered people largely disappointed with themselves, frustrated with their position, or happy to the meager degree that they were able to exercise a very small measure of local power (however benignly thought of). It seems an industry of personal unhappiness in the most banal of senses, very much for the reasons the author above describes. A Tantalus world of well-intentioned, ideal, intelligent people.
A bit further down, Shahar, the initial poster had this to say (the thread goes on long past this point, but this makes for a good full stop):
I’ve said it before, but ultimately, pushing all the logic of self-declared, self-important “projects” along with the self-serving “global” ethics of the profession aside (eating berries in Zagreb and all that), at the end of the day the best we can do is fuck with our students and cook up interesting paths for thinking. And I mean that in the best of ways.