January 29, 2016
#RealAcademicBios unveils darkness, truth, and sexism in the academic community
by Chad Felix
Last Saturday, January 23rd, Eva Mrozcek, an assistant professor of religious studies at UC Davis, tweeted: “Tradition of (mostly male) scholars who describe idyllic life w/wife &kids in academic bio needs to be supplemented w #realacademicbios.”
It was a call-to-Twitter-fingers in the interest of sussing out the myths and realities of academic life, and it’s since caused a stir in academic social media circles.
Inside Higher Ed’s Colleen Flaherty, who spoke with Dr. Mroczek about the hashtag, writes that Mroczek created the #realacademicbios hashtag:
…based on a pattern [Mroczek] observed in book acknowledgements and institutional website bios—a “stereotyped version of what a scholar is and what a scholar’s life looks like, usually a married man with a supportive wife and children.” It’s so common, she said, “that it can create a false impression that if your life is different, you are falling short or don’t belong.”
And so Dr. Mrozcek responded with an example of a real biography:
“She is going through nasty divorce &worries she’ll have missed her child-bearing years before securing stable employment” #realacademicbios
— Eva Mroczek (@EvaMroczek) January 24, 2016
Since then, #realacademicbios has elicited participation from countless adjunct and tenure-track university faculty. The subjects of these tweets run the gamut, from the “post-divorce crippling loneliness” that allowed Dr. Andrew Reeves to “better focus on this project that nobody will remember in 20 years” to failures in gate-keeping logic, as described by Paul D. Miller: “Was told 10 years in federal government, including CIA and White House, was not relevant experience for teaching polisci” to the brutal honesty of user @CrankyEthicist: “They told me I could be anything, so I became a disappointment.”
That being said, the most shocking contributions are those that disclose accounts of sexism in the academic world. Dr. Julie Libarkin notes that she:
Only got office that I didn’t have to share when I documented men had most of the space and I had most of the grants #realacademicbios
And Dr. Amanda Ann Klein:
Smuggled a breast pump into campus interviews & pumped in bathroom stalls because “Having a baby makes u less hirable” #realacademicbios
— Mildred Fierce (@AmandaAnnKlein) January 24, 2016
#realacademicbios In an office shared w/2 male colleagues, is mistaken for their “secretary” by students.
— Kate (@katefwiw) January 28, 2016
It’s bleak stuff, but at the end of the day, Mroczek is happy to have inspired a space where scholars and university faculty can speak frankly with each other, a liberty the Academy—so prone to wild posturing—lacks.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.