September 30, 2008

So much for the joyous academic life

When I first started grad studies, I saw first-hand how the faculty behaved as I was a student rep in the department meetings. I found it astonishing that well-educated and (supposedly) mature adults should behave in such a manner. What made matters worse was that the chairman sat there and did nothing.

Later, when I was teaching for a living, I was a target for administrative abuse myself. Someone in my department took an extreme disliking to me for some reason and began a subtle campaign to push me out, increasing when he became assistant head. When we got a new department boss, the new chap was quickly turned against me by my adversary.

This harassment continued for several years, especially after I added more credentials to my qualifications. The allegations against me became increasingly outlandish, though actual proof of my transgressions were never provided (to protect the students, apparently). Unfortunately, the dean at the time had a tendency to back the department heads, so I was out of luck there. Even the institution's staff association was of little help.

Eventually, I quit, but at a time and in a manner of *my* choosing. I'm sure that I irritated my enemies by doing that. It took me a bit more than two years to rid myself of all the stress built up from that place.

While doing my Ph. D., I locked horns with my supervisor. Over half way through the time allowed to complete my degree, he told me that he wasn't interested in what I was investigating. The remaining time was far from peaceful, but I did finished my thesis, though largely on my own once I developed the key concept of my research topic. I passed my defence and convocated and haven't had any dealings with my supervisor for several years.

I spoke with the university ombudsman about my situation. My choices were:

- continue as before,
- fire my supervisor and find a new one (if one was willing to take me on),
- change topics and possibly put up with more abuse, or
- throw away all the time and effort I put into my degree by quitting.

I chose the first one as one major undertaking at a time was enough for me. I know of other people who were in similar situations and they walked away.

So much for the joyous academic life.


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