As far back as 1992 in a graduate studies methodology course I questioned the psychiatric model – not dismissing it, mind you, but questioning it. After all, that’s what we’re supposed to do in academia, right? University is not a church or a political party. It’s a place where the mind can explore new possibilities and critique existing conditions.
Sadly, the professor who hosted the course was a capricious, cynical stooge. He is alleged to have said that “a university is a place where a professor can get a paycheck.” And after initially agreeing to write letters of recommendation for post-doc scholarships, at the last minute, just before application deadlines, he changed his mind and literally shafted me.
“Shafted” might sound like a harsh word but it’s the very word the Department Head at the time used to describe what happened, later on, when I was also not given the chance to teach a course, which is important to your CV.
Sensing that my academic future was on the line, I went through every legitimate government agency, asking for help. Everybody just passed the buck and I didn’t get a fair chance to compete for a post-doc scholarship. (I had a fantastic track record for getting funding before running into this professor).
I suppose there is some value in seeing the dark side of life along with the sunny side. Until meeting this professor, I was the apple of just about every professor’s eye. I’d hear comments like “It’s Michael Clark and all the other students.” Or “She is not as good as you.” (“she” being a leading student). “What would we do without you, Mike!” Michael Clark is “stellar,” “outstanding,” and I could go on. But when I encountered this dishonorable professor, the dynamic changed.
Let’s not fool ourselves. University is as politically charged and potentially corrupt as any other social institution. The higher you go, the more you see it. I was naïve at the time and could not understand why one crummy professor’s actions could seemingly influence so many others. But that’s what apparently happened. Many professors who once glowingly supported me suddenly did not return my emails. Some had integrity and hung in there, and for that I am truly appreciative. However, the ones who did try to help were mostly undergraduate professors. And that just doesn’t cut it when you need several letters of recommendation for post-doc funding (My Masters professors were all in India, which in the 1990s was still a difficult place to communicate with, and I was not given adequate time for snail mail).
The professor who shafted me would have known all this. In his jaded, cynical way, he was clever. He tried to slough me off by suggesting I go see my “Peterborough people” after changing his mind about supporting me. (Peterborough, Ontario is where I did my undergraduate studies).
Weird? Not really. I see it more clearly now. But I don’t like to use overly nasty words at this blog. It would alienate readers and get the site designated as mature, which would only hinder any chance of getting a more positive message out there.
Anyhow, today’s tweet brought back a lot of memories. I wrote about the DSM-III-R from a cross-cultural perspective back in 1992-93. I was moderate and didn’t romanticize things. I recognized that people with mental injury or differences often do suffer.
But it only took one creepy professor with a bit of imo questionable power to put me in the academic trash can. He was the kind of professor who was often seen volunteering in the department mail room when the mail room secretary wasn’t around. But he would rarely, if ever, show up at colloquia and graduate presentations. It seems he liked to sift through the mail more than talk about intellectual issues, which in retrospect seems pretty strange to me. No time for academic debate? Lots of time to play mail boy?
Little did this enigmatic professor know, however, that out of the ashes, Earthpages.org | Earthpages.ca would arise. So even though I’m not getting paid for doing this blog, at least the internet has provided a forum that one lousy, authoritarian professor tried to shut down.
I mean, this guy may have had power in Religious Studies within the Canadian system. But he couldn’t shut down Google. And Google US recognized the value of Earthpages well before any search engines north of the border did. A little nod to my American friends. 🙂