The Opposite of Dog Eat Dog

At a Faculty Meeting years ago, our distingished new Dean, who’d been Dean elsewhere, President of a University, and CEO in the private sector, began by saying how people often ask him: “What’s the difference between the academic world and the corporate world?” 

The Dean said he replied: “In the corporate world, it’s DOG EAT DOG, whereas in the academic world, it is exactly the other way around.”  Those assembled at the Faculty Meeting laughed knowingly.

Just as the guffaws died out, my great and wonderful friend, a learned faculty member, and former Dean,  quipped: “Do you mean, in academia, it’s GOD EAT GOD?”  Louder knowing laughter erupted and I still laugh about it today.

Academia can be a wonderful place. Yet it’s no Ivory Tower and can be viscious , especially for younger scholars, doing graduate work at elite institutions.  It usually gets better but it can be tough later too. 

There are many ways to cope. One is remembering to research and write for yourself, in the first instance, not to please or even influence others.  Of course, it can be rewarding to have those effects and, especially, to be cited favorably, but that usually comes in due course.

Keeping a sense of humor and some sobriety about also helps.  Whenever I hear about the lion cages of graduate study, or vexing insecurity during early years of untenured appointments, I share the foregoing memorable scene.

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