Angela Leong
Written & Posted by Angela LeongRegistered Clinical Counsellor, Founder of AEM

Unveiling the Toxicity: Exploring Cultural Challenges Within Academia

24 Jan, 2022
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There's a toxic culture within academic institutions. Here's what it looks like:

– Your supervisor gives harsh, unreasonable feedback with little respect to the utility of the feedback, nor how you are receiving it

– In addition to it having a tone of 'you should already know this', the actional component of the feedback is equally demoralizing because it suggests that you should magically be able to know the answer to things even though you don't have the real world life experiences to have the answer to it, because you haven't actually lived much of life. If you're in academia, it's likely that you've been in academia most of your life up until that point

– You're left with scouring the literature because that's what you've been trained to do as a 'good student

– Because you consciously or unconsciously accept this as the norm, you give harsh feedback as a TA to your younger cohort fellows because you're so deep in your own suffering you've become detached from the feelings of once being in their shoes.


More notes: Your supervisor is likely inundated with other demands of their tenure or professorship or life in general (maybe they live with a disability!) and being your mentor is 0.05% of their life. They just don't have the energy to do the job any justice

You went into academia because it was the path that was sold to you! You have been told since a young age that to be 'a good child', and earn your parents' love and attention, you had to do well in school and you followed this formula in a hope gain recognition, love and belonging into university and now graduate school. It may been fine until you started graduate school because everyone else you cared to belong with was also on the same path in life. We're social creatures that want to do as others do.

But once senior year is over, people start taking different paths, maybe they start working for their parents' businesses, or they start a new consulting job and soon they're living a rich and complex life with the money they've earned.

Here you are a poor graduate student, who's major sources of mental stimulation in life is a petri dish of worms or the scowling face of their supervisor. No wonder graduate students are depressed.

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