More Ridiculousness in Academia

I don’t even know what to say about this:

Male, pale and stale university professors are to be given “reverse mentors” to teach them about unconscious bias, under a new Government funded scheme.

Under the project, white men in senior academic posts will be assigned a junior female colleague from an ethnic minority as a mentor.

It’s kind of funny in a very creepy sort of way. The article suggests this will be uncomfortable for the pale, stale men but imagine the discomfort of the poor female mentors.

I need a new series titled “Utter Blethering Ridiculousness” on this blog.

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25 thoughts on “More Ridiculousness in Academia”

  1. This sounds like a remake Mao’s cultural revolution as a bedroom comedy… (one where the point is that nothing sexy ever actually happens)

    Imagine you were named (as a young Jewish non-Latina) assigned to ‘reverse mentor’ an extremely sexist old guy from Argentina or Mexico…

    semi off-topic: what’s the difference between mentoring and nurturing? degree? kind? context?

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  2. What if there is no “junior female colleague from an ethnic minority” in the department? 🙂

    // Imagine you were named (as a young Jewish non-Latina) assigned to ‘reverse mentor’ an extremely sexist old guy from Argentina or Mexico…

    cliff, your guy is male and stale but not pale – clearly he has no unconscious bias!

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  3. Academics don’t actually believe in unconscious bias. I know this for two reasons:
    1) Whenever I read a statement of teaching philosophy from a job applicant, if the applicant is a woman, minority, or member of some other disadvantaged group, I’m guaranteed to see a sentence like “As a woman in a male-dominated field…” or “As a minority…” If they really believed that we were biased against them they’d be hiding it, replacing first names with initials (in the case of women) and not advertising minority status (unless the family name makes it abundantly obvious).

    2) In my field it is common to do screening interviews with 10-15 promising applicants before narrowing down to the 3-5 who will come to campus. It used to be that these screening interviews were done by phone. Now they are done by Skype. I’ve often said “Hey, video conferencing gets tedious when you have several search committee members crowding around one laptop, and technical glitches are common. Why not do phone instead?” Some of my colleagues are fine with this suggestion, but the ones who are most vocal about the dangerous of unconscious bias are also quite emphatic about the need to do a video interview so they can see body language and facial expressions. Never mind the opportunities to pick up on markers of ethnicity, disability, etc.

    If people actually believed in the power of unconscious bias to the extent that they claim, the applicants wouldn’t be advertising their marginalized status and the interviewers wouldn’t be insisting on replacing phone with video.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ” the interviewers wouldn’t be insisting on replacing phone with video.”

      May be, some interviewers simply want to preserve the privilege of applying unconscious bias exclusively for themselves.

      Being “the ones who are most vocal about the dangerous of unconscious bias” reminds of homophobic closeted gays trope.

      As for applicants stressing their specialness, they may trust todays conscious demand for minority hires to overcome unconscious biases.

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    2. If they really believed that we were biased against them they’d be hiding it, replacing first names with initials (in the case of women) and not advertising minority status (unless the family name makes it abundantly obvious).
      To de-ethnicize and degender myself in application materials, I would have to invent an entirely new one. It is absurd and would serve as much of a flag since not everyone is doing this.
      It used to be that these screening interviews were done by phone. Now they are done by Skype
      Imagine standardized Skype/phone interviews where the person is in shadow and has their voice altered like they’re in an witness protection program. Or like the Google Assistant. [You can guess gender/class/age/origin by voice too.]

      It’s not very woke to heap more emotional labor and unpaid work on junior female minority colleagues. It’s a standard trope that asking the objects of “unconscious bias” to educate you is replicating oppression. Meanwhile these older male academics will blithely go on actually mentoring (or not) the people they always do anyways.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Re your first point: Or women do this because they want to be in a department that sees women faculty as an asset, so they’d rather out themselves and end up someplace supportive than hide and end up someplace toxic towards women…

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  4. I also would not be surprised if reverse mentors had the opposite effect on some male academics since the whole thing is insulting for them and nobody guarantees those mentors will be smart as academics or as people.

    Personally, after reading some rants- like how a computer game
    set in Hungary (?) of Middle Ages should include blacks OR how authors should include gays and portray them correctly – I started wishing for more authors like Tolkien who would write what they want to
    and\but
    without using literature as some propaganda device. I do not read books to preach feminism or tolerance or atheism / religion at me.

    I do not want authors feel they must include xyz minority groups to pass master.

    If Tolkien didn’t feel he could \ wanted to include more women, his books only won from him not forcing himself to include more female characters. / read fandom esseys on this recently

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      1. I started wishing for more authors like Tolkien who would write what they want to
        and\but
        without using literature as some propaganda device

        Gone With the Wind is an extremely effective piece of propaganda that the author wanted to write.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. \ I’d say Tolkien is pretty propagandistic. It’s Britain against the Evil Empire, basically, a Cold War text

        Tolkien’s art works even without this interpretation.

        I was talking about cases like a fantasy novel with “an extended scene in which another gay character [tells] all about the homosexual swans and wolves, how people Don’t Understand, how He Must Be Strong, etc. ”

        Also, the idea of sensitivity readers – having work OK-d or not after minority checkers go over it – has bad potential in it too. In the author Lionel Shriver’s words, “there’s a thin line between combing through manuscripts for anything potentially objectionable to particular subgroups and overt political censorship.”

        http://www.vulture.com/2018/02/keira-drake-the-continent.html

        // Gone With the Wind is an extremely effective piece of propaganda that the author wanted to write.

        I think this novel is more complex than being mere propaganda. For instance, Ashley and his wife Melanie could be seen as examples of Southern degraded and even somewhat incestial (because of being cousins) nobility, unable to feed themselves the moment they lose their slaves.

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  5. A major imposition on those younger faculty members. If the guys are that clueless these faculty members should be protected from them, not forced to spend time teaching them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “If the guys are that clueless these faculty members should be protected from them”

    The justification given for the program is proof that the ‘problem’ doesn’t exist (in the place it’s being applied).

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  7. Forgot to add, the moment I see “she wanted to write about privilege, about the way that those who have it can so easily turn a blind eye to the suffering of those who don’t”, I do not want to read this book since I do not believe art can be created this way.

    Tolkien wanted to create a world in which people spoke Germanic-type languages he loved constructing. I do not believe he consciously sat down to write propaganda, unlike the author in the article.

    I do not know about Mitchell, whose work is much inferior to Tolkien’s, but even she probably had deeper emotional involvement in her work than thinking “I want to write pro-slavery novel.”

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      1. As for the article, a 42-year-old freelance marketing consultant (which is a nice way of saying unemployed) decided to become an author of fantasy novels for young adults. This is already hilarious beyond belief. Everything she’s going to write will be a letter to her therapist.

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        1. I was a Harry Potter fan and JKR’s novels are also a letter to her therapist she wrote while collecting benefits as a single mother. It didn’t prevent them from becoming super popular. 🙂

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            1. // McDonald’s is extremely popular. But I wouldn’t call it food or compare it with Michelin-star restaurants.

              Yes, what I referred to was that what you saw as “hilarious beyond belief” was actually possible to do successfully, especially if some book would be marketed as inspired by 9/11 or Iraq War.

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              1. But the price of this success is precisely what the articles describes. If you try to be successful among idiots, you are subject to all the requirements said idiots impose. She tried to make a quick buck in a fast-food literary market. This kind of thing is the price of admission.

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