The hothouse rivalries and cut-throat competition that typify today’s university surely add fuel to the fire of abusive academic discourse (“Nasty, brutish and short”, 7 November).
The struggle for survival, let alone promotion, depends on the divisive imperative to outdo, outshine and outmuscle others in the race to the top. If the importance of an individual’s work does not stand on its own merit, there is much to be gained from the sour and venomous appraisal of competitors’ output, ranging from books and scholarly articles to the conferral of honours and even their posthumous legacies. The decay is also seen in vociferous attacks on reviews that see fit to heap praise upon the opposition.
This deplorable behaviour is a predictably human response to being forced to scramble for evermore scarce university appointments and research funding. It has little to do with how we were brought up or the quality of the schools we went to. As screeching viciousness broadcasts to all and sundry a dog-eat-dog attitude, it holds the potential to erode further the standing of already imperilled universities. Scholarly rude awakenings need to be put to bed if academics are to regain public relevance.
Queensland University of Technology