Messages from the Damned

I woke up this morning to a stream of email, having to do with today’s Chronicle of Higher Education and their beautifully rendered excerpt from the forthcoming book. I’m pleased with their work, of course, and grateful to have the opportunity to weigh in on a vital conversation. But the messages themselves—via email, through LinkedIn, through comments on this website—reminded me all over again of why the conversation matters so, so much. I’ll paraphrase a few of them…

  • I too am in an ongoing struggle to be accepted into the club, having nowhere else to turn. I cry out of shame, and then try harder. It’s a vicious circle.
  • I’m a capable professional with advanced education and notable achievements in my past occupations, but I have felt incompetent in higher ed. And as you describe, I thought it was me.
  • I gave far too much of my life to a system that ground me down and disposed of me (but continued to use my work to demonstrate my employers’ “research excellence”).

How is it possible that an institution aimed squarely at cultural progress and social justice can leave so many of its own participants ashamed and alone? How can we demean and dismiss our colleagues so easily, and so often? What is the matter with us?

I’m grateful for all of those who’ve reached out, and I’m responding to each. You’re not alone. You’re not insufficient. This is not your fault. It’s natural to internalize all of this, but it’s not correct. We are all just caught up in the parade of the damned, hoping for that unpredictable nod that will save one of us while leaving so many others to march on.