Academia is like my home. That is why I care about this topic and I am spending more space on it. I think it helps if I repeat what
is commonly expected from academia: it is education and training.
Yes, this is something we should remind ourselves. Good academic institutions focus on teaching their student body and prepare the environment for
this goal, and this is regardless of the distinction between “research” and “teaching” schools.
To achieve this goal, faculty members and department heads should be focused and invested on teaching and advising students as their main priority. They
need to be academic type of people; those who are interested and are good at reading, learning, knowing, questioning, thinking, writing, speaking,
and teaching. They are excited about the topics of their interest, and enjoy spending time on those topics.
The statements above are not idealistic; they are minimum requirements for people in academia regardless of the field of study. Yet, it is increasingly difficult to find
such people in academia. Many academic institutions are not taking their original goal seriously, and they are immersed in distractions.
Below, I just scratch the surface of some of the problems of many academic institutions today.
Many people in today's academia are not of academic type. They do not have the tendency to think, do not have a writing style and clarity of presentation,
and are not careful in their observations and inferences. They are people many of whom possess some or all of these characteristics:
• being committed to increase the number of their publications and similar statistics (like h-index in their Google Scholar) regardless of the quality of those works,
• judging other people and works with the number of publications, citations, or grants,
• having undue willingness to collaborate which can indicate their lack of independence,
• having undue interest in prizes, awards, certificates, and titles that are not necessarily awarded because of performance or professional achievement
• creating unnecessary confusion in teaching or discussing subjects in their classes and meetings,
• lacking insight, even in their own field,
• lacking opinions or courage to express opinions,
• lacking honesty with their audience and with readers, and more importantly, with themselves,
• being indifferent to change anything in the world,
• lacking focus and being distracted with trivial topics and issues,
• following topics, affiliations, and tendencies that become social trends or are hot topics,
• designing their courses just to receive good student evaluations for the course, regardless of whether doing so can actually help students learning course materials,
• having interest in seeking connections that can be used to get grants, publish works, or get promoted,
• and adding names on research papers or grants as authors without sufficient contribution as a quid pro quo, in following a bad norm, or as a favor,
And many more dishonorable characteristics. In short, academia has become bad business in many of our educational institutions.
This is because, instead of the original goal, the academia’s attention has shifted toward how to improve the school’s rankings,
increase the number of publications, and similar aims.
The bigger problem, however, is that these behaviors are practiced in such a scale that have made them into
norms, and consequently, do no longer look unprofessional. Newcomers (e.g., assistant professors) argue "other people do it, and so do I";
they establish a career on unethical premises. In an unhealthy competition for tenure or promotion, they become unprofessional professors.
In short, this situation is partly because many academic institutions put new items in their agenda (external grants, status in rankings, etc.).
When the criteria of judging the performance of faculty are misplaced, the values would change and the result is what we see today in mass scale.
I should mention that during my time in academia, I have also seen serious academics who did not suffer from these problems. Good old-fashioned
academics do not simply need to stain themselves with such practices, as their institutions judge their performance on healthy grounds.
For my own academic responsibilities, my goal is to preserve what should be kept good in academia.
I believe there are academic institutions who still have their principles, respect themselves, and are not polluted by these problems.
I think it is important to define, recognize, and distinguish the academic from un-academic characteristics with the hope to stop this bad trend,
define healthy values, and improve our academic institutions.