Be Kind: Generosity in the Academy

Decorative: "Kindness is a renewable resource"


A. "How to Be a Generous Professor in Precarious Times" (post) surveys the too-frequent "cruel tactics," "enmity," and "tendency toward malevolence" that often seem to characterize academia and argues that, "[i]n such dire times, ...simple gestures of support and collegiality have become radical unto themselves."

  • "[T]he promise of such gestures and the generosity they bestow ... remin[d] us of the good academics can do for each other."
  • "Never underestimate an individual’s ability to change the academic scene through an act of generosity."
  • "Never underestimate how an individual’s generosity can spur a larger response that benefits us all."

B. What Such Generosity Looks Like

The post then lists specific instances of what "that generosity look[s] like":

1. "It starts with the individual."

  • "In its simplest form, it begins with the acknowledgment of other people’s vulnerability within the academic hierarchy."
  • "Witnessing the vulnerability of others in our profession should inspire generosity — particularly from those who possess the authority and stability of tenure."

2. "[G]enerosity grows in the plentitude of microscopic activities we do in everyday academic life":

  • "Agreeing to read a paper."
  • "Having tea with a student in distress."
  • "Steering a committee discussion in a different, more positive way."
  • "Buying a coffee or lunch for a graduate student or an adjunct faculty member attending a conference."
  • "Finding ways to include and pay adjuncts for service work."

3. "How [else] can each of us be generous in precarious times?"

  • "Remember that no one person is an entire movement, but one person can begin a movement."
  • "Refuse to perpetuate the "normal" abuses of the past. There is no excuse for cruelty in public or in private. Don’t punch down."
  • "Never. Abandon. Anyone. Keep writing the letters of recommendation. Keep trying to bring more full-time, tenure-track faculty members into the fold. If we are safely in the lifeboat, we have a moral obligation to pull everyone out of the water."
  • "Look for ways that adjunct instructors can be involved in the life of departments and institutions, and consistently demand that they be paid for their time and work."
  • "Work with contingent faculty members to see what new solidarities can be created to keep our profession alive."
  • "See the radicalism of generosity as a way of keeping our allies — and ourselves — alive in precarious times."
  • "Build generosity into practice. Bring others into it ... Approach your whole department, or your dean. Design assignments and meetings that encourage students and colleagues to be generous toward each other."

4. "What we cherish about academe is that individuals can be radical unto themselves."

  • "[A]cademe still offers some agency through which we can highlight an injustice, bring it to attention, and formulate strategies for its alleviation."
  • "These acts of generosity offer their own expression of academic freedom."
  • "[T]here is a radicalism in being generous with each other, through coalition building, collaboration, and solidarity."
  • "It can be embedded in the small acts we perform every day and in the behaviors we model across the profession."
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