On Friday, I had to write two things: an article for my news writing class and a revised essay for my Politics in the Middle East class. I never knew writing these two papers could be so laborious, especially without a draft process. As soon I finished them, I became mentally drained. I couldn't think, let alone function. Heck, when I came home with bagged eyes, my mom encouraged me to sleep for a day. But I cannot.
I have two exams to study for.
I cannot catch a break. I am stressed and overworked. But everyone feels the same way. My Human Rights professor, for example, told my class that his brain is fried. Sick of grading papers, he gave our autobiography papers an automatic A. Since professors feel the same way as students, academia has some questions, but it won't always provide the answers. In this article, I will be looking at stress as a necessary component for academia's function as a system.
Because universities desire efficiency, they wanted their professors to be stressed as much as possible. Jonathan Malesic wrote an essay where he detailed his own personal experience of burnout and its contribution to his retirement as a tenured professor. Malesic noted that universities adopted "productivity, outcomes assessment, and continuous improvement" from the private sector. The private sector--think Goldman Sachs or BNY Mellon--wanted their workers to get so much work done in a 9-5. And with such ample productivity, universities wanted their professors to work the same way. Specifically, universities wanted their professors to work in times of fiscal pressure. In one part of his essay, Malesic detailed that state legislature began to cut "appropriations." He, for example, described his university feeling the budget cuts: "Like many small colleges, the one where I worked had gone through a painful period of budget cuts and layoffs. " By threatening layoffs, universities look to productivity as a marker of continued employment. And so, many professors felt stress both by taking the huge workload and the threat of unemployment. This is why Malesic coined burnout as a "malady of post-industrial capitalism." But, for academia, it is not a malady, more like a systemic function.
Professors and students alike feel the burden of overwork and the looming threat of burnout. Burnout may be normal, but it is not as necessary for out. Rather, it is necessary for the system to function. Academia needs us to burnout. How are we going to express our devotion to our profession and, to an extent, our university? Sure, you can try self-care. But you will go back to the same cycle of overwork and burnout.
You need to show to the university that you care before they deem you as unproductive and kick you out when the state budget slashes their funding.
And I need to show to my professors I care before they give me an A-, a B+, or just anything other than an A.